Arnold warns of dangers of cynicism

Chairman of convention speaks of risk to democracy

Cynicism about politics in Ireland is a “danger to our democracy”, says  Tom Arnold. Photograph: Eric Luke

Cynicism about politics in Ireland is a “danger to our democracy”, says Tom Arnold. Photograph: Eric Luke


The chairman of the Convention on the Constitution has warned of a risk that a current cynicism about politics in Ireland is a “danger to our democracy”.

Tom Arnold made his comments last night at a meeting of the convention held in Waterford, when over 100 people turned out to discuss issues relating to constitutional reform.

Mr Arnold also said there are a number of issues earmarked for consideration by the convention which will not be reached by the time the 100-member body winds up next year.

The convention is currently holding a series of meetings around the country to gather opinion for the “any other business” section of its work, along with specific headings given to it by the Government when it started work in 2012. Six headings identified by members under “any other business” are the environment; social, cultural and economic rights; church and state; political and institutional reform; family and issues of morality; and bill of rights. These issues have already attracted over 500 submissions from the public.

Further meetings are being held in Dublin, Sligo, Athlone, Monaghan and Limerick following recent public events in Galway and Cork. However, in Waterford, the chairman said: “It’s quite clear that there will be issues that, by the time of the end of the convention’s work next year, we will not have had time to consider.” It will be then up to the Government to decide whether to establish a new convention, he said.

Waterford-based Senator David Cullinane (Sinn Féin) said “people want real, profound political reform and institutional reform”.

In response, Tom Arnold said one of the reasons the convention is holding meetings around the country, “is that there’s a very real risk that there’s a cynicism about politics. It’s a danger to our democracy.”

The meeting was also addressed by the Editor of The Irish Times, Kevin O’Sullivan, who called on politicians to set out a “coherent, modern vision for Ireland” under some of the headings being considered by the convention. Taking such “crucial steps” will help eliminate “much of the current public despondency in Ireland and will be the catalyst for our social and political redirection and reinvention,” he said.