Sir, – Methinks that Cathal Malone (July 10th) doth protest too much about the absence of academics on the constitutional convention.
Academics are free to make submissions to the convention, and some may even be invited to speak before the convention. They are free to go to media to argue their case. And in any subsequent referendum(s), they are free to publicly argue aye or nay to each proposal as presented before the people.
It is incorrect to say that the citizen members will have no constitutional or political background. It is equally incorrect to say that the absence of academics will impoverish the quality of debate. Consider that lawyers are prohibited from serving on juries, thus jury members have no legal background or scholarship. Is the quality of jury deliberations impoverished because of this? Like jury duty, only those citizens with some time, interest and knowledge will take part, everyone else will find some excuse to get out of it. Thus many citizen members will have some constitutional or political background, and they will also bring their real world experience and common sense, qualities that academics sadly lack.
There is no need to worry about the convention’s support staff having too much influence over the citizen members. Unlike jury duty, the citizen members will not be restricted to the testimony that a judge allows them to hear. They are free to challenge witnesses, to gather their own evidence, to consult their own experts, and to do whatever private research they wish. Besides, considering how in such low esteem politicians and their spin doctors are held by the public, it is more likely the citizen members will simply ignore anything said by the support staff if it sounds too messaged.
The real question is do we want our Constitution written by a bunch of stuffy, boring auld academics, with their romantic and sentimental opinions, engaging in long-winded highfalutin debates on Locke and Montesquieu? Or do we want a plain ordinary constitution written by and for plain ordinary people? – Yours, etc,