post by David Farrell (July 11, 2011)
It’s a pity that the media gave scant if any coverage to an important speech by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform at a Labour party meeting on July 2. The full text of Brendan Howlin’s speech is here.
In his speech, the Minister reaffirms the government’s commitments to a series of referendums to coincide with the date of the presidential election, and also to establishing a Constitutional Convention to consider the following issues:
- Review of our Dáil Electoral System
- Reducing the Presidential term to 5 years
- Provision for same sex marriage
- Amending the clause on women in the home and encourage greater participation of women in public life
- Removing blasphemy from the Constitution
- Possible reduction of the voting age
We remain in the dark as to how this Constitutional Convention will be constituted. All the Minister would say is that “Currently, the two parties in Government are discussing the modus operandai of the convention and will publish proposals”. This has been left deliberately vague. In its manifesto, Labour had said that it would comprise one-third politicians, one-third legal experts and one-third citizens, whereas Fine Gael’s preference was for a citizens’ assembly (i.e. with 100% of its members being ordinary citizens) focused specifically on the question of the electoral system. It will be interesting to see which way the government jumps. Perhaps there is a middle way that combines both approaches?