Constitutional proposals to be outlined

 

The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste are to brief Opposition leaders Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams as well as the Dáil's Technical Group this evening on the Government’s plans for the proposed Constitutional Convention.

Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore will meet with Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin leaders tonight.

Independent TD for Kildare North Catherine Murphy, who will attend on behalf of the Technical Group at Government Buildings, said she was preparing a “menu” of options with her colleagues.

The Cabinet formally agreed last week to establish the Convention and a spokesman said at the time that the Government would be holding consultations with the Opposition.

It is understood the Government’s draft Convention proposal provides for 100 members made up of 66 ordinary citizens and 33 political representatives plus a chair who would initially discuss reductions in the presidential term and the voting age.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said last night: “In essence, the Constitutional Convention, if it is to mean anything, must embrace the opportunity for real reform of the political system in this country.

“It must recognise and protect the many great qualities of Bunreacht na hÉireann, while at the same time taking the chance to reform the relationship between Government and Parliament.”

Mr Adams, in a detailed statement, said the terms of reference for the Convention must not prejudice any future process of agreeing an all-Ireland constitution.

The Sinn Féin president said the Convention should be “a fully transparent and inclusive process that will reach out to citizens in the north, including unionists, and to the diaspora”.

He added: “What value a consultation when the government has already decided on the format and terms of reference for the convention?”

He accused the Government of a cynical effort “to set the agenda of the Convention and maintain control over it”.

“It is not about inclusiveness and an open debate on the future shape of the Constitution but about control.

“The Taoiseach’s office rang my office after the Government’s announcement and suggested a meeting this week.

“This is a very unsatisfactory way of discussing this important issue. I will attend but it should be about consultation not merely notification,” he said.

Calling for “meaningful consultation and the broadest terms of reference”, he said the Convention must acknowledge and take account of relevant prior commitments under the Belfast Agreement of Good Friday 1998.