Citizens on Constitution body to have anonymity
“In the final report all names were presented,” he said.
Similarly, in the Ontario citizens’ assembly in 2006, the names, photographs and a short biography of all 103 participants were published.
Asked about the decision not to make the names public, Prof Carty said his instinctive reaction was it was desirable that members should not be anonymous figures. They had adopted a public role and the public was entitled to know who they were.
“Indeed, the assembly will be, in considerable part, legitimated by the electorate knowing that the assembly is made up of individuals just like them.
“These considerations might seem to take on added import given that one-third of the membership will be publicly known. One might think that it would be important that the other two-thirds be treated equally and given the same attention. ”
Prof Patrick Fournier, a political scientist from the University of Montreal, has a more neutral view about it.
While it was unusual for members to remain anonymous, he said, the fact that some participants would not mind being identified nullified the anonymity clause to a great extent.
A full breakdown of the gender, geographical and demographic spread of the 66 citizens selected will be made available.
“We will not be giving out their names and addresses,” said the spokesman for polling company Behaviour and Attitudes.
The plenary sessions of the convention will be open to the public and to journalists. Proceedings will be streamed live on its website.
This means at least some of the 66 “lay” participants will forgo their anonymity if they speak at the plenary session.
The programme for government promised to set up a Constitutional Convention that would report to the Government by March 2012.
However, the process has been beset by delays and it is not likely to make its final recommendations until late 2013.
The convention will comprise 100 members. In a departure from other jurisdictions, politicians are included, 33 in all from the South and North.
Sixty-six citizens have been chosen by a polling company. The secretariat for the convention is expected to run introductory courses and to select panels of experts to assist in deliberations.
There are mixed views on the citizens-politicians mix from academics who have experience of assemblies in other countries.
Prof Ken Carty from the University of British Columbia believes it could be a positive development, as one of the shortcomings of its assembly was there was insufficient connection and "buy-in" from politicians, once the assembly had made its recommendations.
At a recent seminar at the Royal Irish Academy, Prof Henk van der Kolk, academic director of the Dutch Burgerforum, said he feared that citizens, who might know nothing about the constitutional issues involved, would be manipulated by politicians well-trained in advocacy and politics. He recommended that the process of selecting the citizens involved be fully transparent to ensure they had the strongest possible voice. They also needed a strong chairman.