Fine Gael chairman backs plan for ‘Constitution day’ featuring series of referendums
Charlie Flanagan says recommendations of Constitutional Convention should be voted on in a single day
Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan
Mr Flanagan said voters should be presented with a series of referendums on proposals arising from the Constitutional Convention on the same day rather than introducing the reforms on a “piecemeal” basis.
In its 2011 general election manifesto, Fine Gael said, if in government, it would hold a “Constitution day” within 12 months in which the public would be asked to approve the abolition of the Seanad and other changes to the articles of the Constitution.
The party has now been in Government for 2½ years.
The convention yesterday filed its recommendations on changes to the electoral system, which the Government has four months to consider before deciding whether or not to hold a referendum on the issue.
It has also recommended holding referendums on issues such as marriage rights for same-sex couples, a reduction of the voting age from 18 to 16, and changes to article 41 of the Constitution, which ascribes to women a life in the home.
Mr Flanagan said the convention’s recommendations should be voted on in a single day rather than holding “a series of expensive referendums and running the risk of referendum fatigue”.
He said providing information to the public on such a broad range of issues could pose a challenge but that TDs could be broken into blocs that would campaign on individual issues.
The convention’s deliberations on electoral reform saw participants reject a proposal that the State’s PR-STV system be replaced with mixed-member proportional representation.
Instead, the convention voted in favour of proposals such as constituency sizes being increased to a minimum of five seats and ballot papers no longer being laid out in alphabetical order, which participants heard was beneficial to candidates appearing near the top.
More broadly, the report recommends greater access to postal voting, a more accurate electoral register, the formation of an electoral commission and for Dáil Éireann to be permitted to appoint non-members of the Oireachtas as ministers.