So you want to help write your constitution?

Icelandic political scientist Silja Bara Omarsdottir writes about waking up as a newly elected representative to the country’s new constitutional assembly here. The assembly is a direct result of the Pots and Pans Revolution which took place in Iceland after the banking crisis tanked the country’s economy just over two years ago. Should we think about doing something similar here?

16 thoughts on “So you want to help write your constitution?

  1. Not only should we be thinking about it, we should be organising, agitating and advocating for it.

    We are at the crusp of a time when change is very much within reach. The moment that we live in gives real opportunity for change. However, these thoughts need real-world actions and commitments to see them realised. Those actions can take all kinds of style, wit, resources and ability.

    Two events – of two different styles of action – happening in Dublin this Saturday that are pressing for reform are:

    – Pot N’ Pan Bang: A Sonic Vigil for Real Democracy (

    – Public meeting of “Second Republic” (

    • Just FYI – have now added Silja Bara Omarsdottir’s blog to our blogroll. I’d say it’s required reading for reform advocates in Ireland.

  2. It is a fantastic idea but we are not Iceland. Having been there, as a populace they are very socially and politically minded in comparison to us and the culture here of the hyper-local and cronyism would hinder such an assembly at least to a small degree. But when combined with an admittedly low turnout like in Iceland and the anti-intellectual slant in Irish politics, I would be hard press to support such an endeavour without some sort of academic guidance or input to make sure not only real change, but positive change respectful of common law decisions previously here.

    • I saw Elaine on Prime Time last night. We need intelligent, articulate people like her in the dail who has a real pride in her country. There were tears in her eyes last night talking about the proud irish who would get out of this mess that we are in because of useless, jumped up politicians. Elaine, please, please run for government. you would get my first vote. if there are other people like you get them to set up a new party with you. Call it The Peoples Party because that is who you would be representing. Good luck.

      • I watched PT also, and for the first time in about two weeks went to bed feeling a little hope.
        That said no one person – however well intentioned becoming a TD (independant) will make any differance. A new political party may have a chance to make a differance, but not another independant.
        WE need to move away from the whole idea of sending independants to the dail, what can they do for our country now. WE need to break from this tradition, and start a new one.

    • A new constitution will be but a tool to get us to the goal. It is not the goal in itself. The goal is an accountable executive, Dail and public servants, where decision making can be seen and where consent and withdrawal of consent is done openly.
      And where positions of responsibility are filled by people of appropriate competence, with rewards and sanctions based on behaviour. We probably do need constitutional change, but we must keep our eyes on the goal.

    • We certainly need to re-write those articles of the Constitution that specify our way of governing ourselves, with particular to having more checks and balances to limit the scope for excess by the powerful – elected and appointed, private and public – so that government is both competent and moderate.

      As there is no separation of the Rialtas(Government/Executive) from the Dáil/Seanad (Legislature/Representative), the 1937 Constitution lacks merit on this particular “check and balance”.
      In 1996, I made submission to the All Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution in which I proposed new articles to cover this, in addition to Freedom of Information and Citizens’ Initiative – available here

      Click to access 1.pdf


  3. i don’t get these elections to the constitution writing group surely this will just produce wierdos, why not just come up with multiple choice referendum for these reforms, i know this is partly what they are doing, but why these elections, just pick a random lot have a citizen assemble if you must, and let the population choose.

    i’d prefer the risk of populist choices then 30 people choosing seem more democratic to me.

  4. We definitely need political reforms.

    Whether that means a new constitution or amendments to the constitution or new articles, etc, I’m not really sure.

    The vast majority of the Constitution I would say is fine.

    It’s in the political area that changes need to be made.

    I think it makes sense to limit changes to the Constitution, otherwise you get bogged down in years or even decades of discussion.

    So sticking to just political reform should be the priority.

    • Spot on.
      If we get in to policies, we’ll get bogged down in noise and get nowhere.
      Kepp hammering it out there – POLITICAL REFORM – will lead to better decisions for us all (though not perfect either).

  5. I agree changes to the constitution are urgently required but I also agree with the comment above that we need to avoid getting bogged down for years in technical and legal argument and debate. It would then become impossible to maintain the interest of the general population and the process would risk running out of steam. This is something that would also suit the political establishment and delaying the process is something they would likely subtly and covertly encourage. Yes we need to work on the constitution by all means but we also need deep rooted and fundamental change to our political culture. I would take the view that a new political grouping/party is definitely required to ensure such reform happens. An immediate sharp shock to the system is urgently required if momentum is to be built. There couldnt possibly be a better time to launch a new party and give it a reasonable chance of surviving its birth.

  6. Where can one find the official results of these icenlandic constitutional assembly elections, with the distribution of preferences (from 1st preference for 500 candidates to 25 winners) ?

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