Civil society groups 'being ignored'


The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has accused the Government of ignoring the views of civil society groups on constitutional reform ahead of the formation of the constitutional convention.

ICCL director Mark Kelly said the Constitution was “long overdue an overhaul”, despite being celebrated at home and abroad for its recognition of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He warned that the potential of the convention would only be realised if the voices of civil society were given a meaningful place in the upcoming discussions.

The Government has said the constitutional convention should be composed of what it calls “ordinary citizens” and elected representatives. An expert advisory group, to be established to provide information and advice, will be comprised of political scientists, constitutional lawyers and academics.

Mr Kelly said a commitment to limit party representation and “attempts at political control” should be made prior to establishing the convention. “The explicit exclusion of representative and civil society organisations from participating in the process should be revised,” he added.

Independent Senator Katherine Zappone, who addressed the ICCL’s ‘Hear Our Voices’ event in Dublin this morning, said members of the Oireachtas were not receiving detailed information about the design and establishment of the constitutional convention.

She warned that “absolute pre-occupation” with the economy and the survival of the euro currency was not good for society or democracy.

Dr Zappone called on Government backbenchers to “claim their power” and play a significant role in shaping the design and outcomes of the convention, whether or not they were selected as members.

She praised the ICCL for raising concerns about the membership of the expert advisory group. “I know many of my colleagues agree with your arguments that the advisory group should not be limited to constitutional lawyers, academics and political scientists,” she said.

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