Citizens doing it for themselves: time for a 2nd Republic?

Posted by Kenneth McDonagh, Monday 6th December

On Saturday afternoon last, I attended the first meeting of a new grassroots movement called ‘Second Republic’. As someone who has stared forlornly from the lectern at a mere scattering of undergraduates, the very fact that up to 80 people freely gave up their time to discuss political reform on a wintry Saturday afternoon is evidence of the prevailing appetite for change. That they sustained the debate for 2 hours or more is testament to the seriousness with which this issue is viewed.

The group agreed to pursue a Pledge campaign for the forthcoming election campaign. The group will ask all candidates to sign a pledge to establish a National Convention to examine the issue of political reform and to be bound to implement the findings of that convention or to put those findings to referendum as required.

Although few in the room felt that the pledge campaign alone would result in major political change, it was felt that it represented a starting point for a longer campaign for political reform. The group is taking an ecumenical approach to reform, aiming to create momentum for reform to take place rather than demanding specific reforms.

The Pledge initiative and the campaigns that follow are a welcome sign of engagement by citizens at this crucial juncture in Irish politics. More information, including a video of the meeting, can be found at http://www.2nd-republic.ie

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7 thoughts on “Citizens doing it for themselves: time for a 2nd Republic?

  1. A key issue with emerging groups like this (and I am on the 2nd Republic mailing list) is how they can be sustained and developed in the absence of funding particularly given that they are effectively taking on the resources and interests of the State.

    While I don’t believe that significant funding is necessary and would undermine the voluntary and ‘people-driven’ ethos of these groups, sponsorship of certain projects (e.g. Billboard campaign or ‘pledge campaign’ printing etc.) would be required to promote the campaign.

    Is there a mechanism by which people/groups/philanthropies might be able to specifically able to contribute to certain projects/events that perk their interest and help the groups achieve them. Unless funding for change starts arriving, there is a risk of the mood for change fizzling out from repeatedly hitting this funding brick wall.

  2. I also attended the meeting on Saturday. While I am very supportive of the group (movement?), I feel it cannot be successful if it merely aims to be an amorphous group (as at present). This is too loose, in my opinion.

    Any group such as this cannot be unfocused if it is to gain the support of the general public. It will need to look as if it is on a professional, firm footing if it is to gain widespread support. It will, in addition, need a public face if it to work. A group based, in the main on the internet, will not achieve this, the internet still perceived somewhat pejoratively in the wider community vis-a-vis the truthfulness/accuracy of its content (well, perhaps only to those of my generation!).

    The group will need a strong centre. I got the impression at the meeting (and on 2nd Republic’s discussion group) that somehow, using the internet, the group can be run by some type of micro-democracy within the group. Is this realistic?

    I note that the group, up to yesterday, had not even set down its basic aims/objectives. If the idea is for the group to be an umbrella organisation, then it would be absolutely essential for anyone using its name, and being part of it, to sign up to its over-riding aims. That is, to agree to abide by a binding set of standards. Otherwise, it will not be possible to keep it together as a grouping (I would imagine). After all, the aim is to bring under its wing numerous disparate groups.

    It also needs to learn to walk before it can run. It does not yet have a centralised steering committee (not to dictate ‘policy’ but rather to organise things such as the group’s finances, logistics, media, links with other groups, etc.). None of this has yet been set down. I would suggest that (at least) a further meeting is essential in order to firstly agree a ‘constitution’ for the groupings and also in order to choose a steering committee. Once members have signed up to the constitution, say, then a vote could be taken on membership of the committee, etc.

    Perhaps these ideas are too specific for discussion on this site. However, I feel some practical, down-to-earth discussion regarding the form of this group is required, all being agreed that reform is necessary.

  3. @Eoghan

    Good suggestions. But I think it is an interesting approach to allow the new group to develop organically. This is not necessarily a bad thing and a quick look at the wiki page of documents (a nice democratic innovation) indicates that it is taking shape and developing substance quite quickly.

    As far as I understood, the first meeting was to gauge interest and hear all sides but I agree that this now needs to progress into real advances. I think that will happen as there is an impressive level of motivation here.

    I do understand that ‘practical, down to earth’ thought is required, but a group calling for more democracy in decision-making in the State needs to also practice what it preaches. I think this will require us all to re-imagine how things are done and whether traditional ‘committees’ etc are necessarily the best ways to get things done. I do favor a committee type structure with non hierarchical decision making. It does actually work. Establishing the group might take a little longer at the beginning but I think it will make a stronger group in the long run.

  4. I would agree with Eoghan’s sentiments and the issues around structure and organisation as well as the need for clear objectives, priorities and aims were all dsicussed on Saturday. Key now is to move them forward and begin to put some flesh on the bones. We need to be very careful momentum is not lost as could easily happen if things are not seen to progress. The Wiki part of the site is very helpful and a great innovation but I’m still not clear how 2nd Republic will move from discussing ideas and its constitution, structure etc to formally ageeing and finalising them. A Steering Committee is something that has to be a major priority.

  5. A thing to bear in mind when looking at Second Republic is that it is a movement taking shape right before your eyes. The first inception of it took place less than three weeks ago. Since then it has blown up to 300 members, about a third of which made it to the Gresham on Saturday. That’s quite phenomenal.

    No less, all of what you say above is quite right, Eoghan. The wiki, the mailing list, the forum, etc. make its growth very transparent – warts and all. There is a great deal of work to be done … but it is happening.

    I’m currently on the train back down from Dublin (again!) having met with a gentleman consulting for Atlantic Philanthropies. He has worked on MoveOn.org, Avaaz.org and Obama’s grassroots campaign. Fantastic opportunity to get some really world-class advice and some great ideas coming out from that. Very motivational stuff.

    Hang in there. Keep contributing. We’re getting there.

  6. change is needed in so many areas political the courts the civil service the legal profession and accounts a need to tell the truth and not to run ireland ltd for the few over the many
    we need people power to change the entire system that has been run only for the few in the laws made by them for self as for our selves we need to be more open to all and not allow a gang of four or more dictate power to the people harry price

  7. Pingback: “nd Republi9c – Designing A Citizen Assembly « politicalreform.ie

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