*Declaration of interest: I am the research director of the Convention (in a voluntary capacity).
Last weekend, the Constitutional Convention completed its work. At its closing dinner last Saturday, the snappy slogan on the menu summed things up well: ‘100 members, 10 meetings, 1 constitution’. With a budget of some €900,000 and a deadline of one year (that ultimately was extended by a further two months), the Convention surpassed all expectations. All eight items on its agenda were dealt with on schedule. In addition it discussed two other issues, on Dáil reform and economic, social and cultural rights, that the members selected from the large list of submissions by the general public. The Table below provides an overview of what the Convention has recommended.
It will be some time before we can properly access the success or otherwise of this Convention — a Convention that in terms of its makeup, its method of operation and its agenda is in many ways a world first. But here are two points that are worth noting:
- The eight issues originally set for it by the government — the number and form of which were the source of much criticism — have morphed into no less than 38 specific recommendations for reform, at least 18 of which would require constitutional referendums.
- The four reports of the Convention that have been discussed to date have resulted in three specific referendum promises by the government, on: same-sex marriage, reducing the voting age to 16, and reducing the age of presidential candidates.
We have yet to see how the government reacts to the remaining reports (that all have to be responded to on a set timetable), and we have yet to see if any of the referendums succeed. But — to my mind — it seems hard to disagree with the proposition that the Convention has exceeded expectations. So far, at any rate….