Chairman welcomes chance to give citizens a 'meaningful input'


The chairman of the Constitutional Convention has described its first major deliberative meeting as a success that allowed ordinary people have a say in some of the most important questions facing society.

Tom Arnold said it had been a productive weekend, with business done properly, respectfully and with good humour.

The convention voted by a narrow margin to lower the voting age but decided by a larger majority that the seven-year presidential term should be retained.

“Today was the first stage in the process of allowing ordinary Irish people to have a meaningful input into some of the most important civic and social matters facing society,” said Mr Arnold, the Concern chief executive.

The 100-person convention is made up of 66 citizens, randomly selected and broadly representative of Irish society; 33 parliamentarians from the Republic and the North; and chairman Mr Arnold.

Voting took place yesterday at the end of a two-day gathering in Malahide, Dublin.

Fifty-two per cent of delegates were in favour of reducing the voting age of 18 years, 47 per cent opposed it and 1 per cent had no opinion. Of these, 48 per cent favoured 16 years and 39 per cent 17 years and 14 per cent had no opinion.

Presidential term

Fifty-seven per cent opposed reducing the seven-year presidential term, with 43 per cent in favour. If the term were to be reduced, 80 per cent opposed the presidential election being held on the same day as the European and local elections, 14 per cent said it should be and 6 per cent had no opinion.

An overwhelming majority, 94 per cent, said Irish people should have a say in the nomination of presidential candidates and 6 per cent disagreed. Former presidential candidate Senator David Norris, a delegate, described the majority as “quite stunning”, adding he welcomed the vote.

There was a tie on the question of whether the office should be one seven-year term, with 44 per cent agreeing, the same number disagreeing, and 12 per cent saying they did not know.

Seventy-eight per cent opposed a one-term presidency of five years. Fifty per cent of delegate voted to reduce the age eligibility of 35 years for presidential election candidates.