Posted by David Farrell (January 24, 2012)
In an interesting piece in today’s Irish Times (see here), Peadar Kirby and Mary P. Murphy make a persuasive case for involving ordinary citizens in the constitutional convention that the government is anticipated to establish in the very near future.
While they take issue with the approach proposed by We The Citizens (which some of us involved in this blog were also involved with), they share the same fundamental ambition of actively engaging with citizens in the process of political and constitutional reform that this government has promised (and hopefully will start delivering on soon).
Clearly there are different ways of doing this, and Kirby and Murphy’s approach does have its merits. But to follow their agenda means the adoption of a completely new constitution for a new Republic: Kirby and Murphy favour root and branch reform of our Constitution to produce a ‘Second Republic’.
However, personally I still hold to the view that a more realistic way of proceeding with the government’s promised constitutional convention would be to see it as operating in a number of parallel ‘strands’, with a citizens’ assembly (possibly more than one) as one ‘strand’ focusing on certain key questions. There are a number of advantages to this approach, principal among them being that it would enable certain reform measures to proceed apace without having to wait for debates (tortuous as these are likely to be) to conclude on full-scale constitutional reform.