President welcome at reform discussion


President Michael D Higgins would be welcome to give his views to the Constitutional Convention, a spokesman for the convention said at Leinster House yesterday.

During the presidential election campaign, Mr Higgins, as the Labour candidate, said that if elected, he would explore the possibility of nominating members of the convention.

In an interview with The Irish Times last week, he expressed disagreement with the proposal before the convention to shorten the presidential term of office from seven to five years.

“It’s open to anyone to make a submission, to be honest, there’s no issue with that at all,” the convention spokesman said. “I’m sure the members of the convention would be delighted to hear the views of the President.”

The Constitutional Convention provided “a genuinely historic possibility” because it was “timely to look at change to the Constitution relevant to the 21st century”, chairman Tom Arnold said.

Apart from the chair, the body will consist of 33 elected politicians, four from Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance Party and the Greens in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the rest from the Oireachtas, as well as 66 other persons from the electoral register.

66 representatives

A convention spokesman said: “We asked a polling company, Behaviour and Attitudes, to go and find us 66 people – 33 men and 33 women – broken down by age, region and social class.”

There were also 66 “shadows” chosen on a similar basis who would be available in the event that any of the 66 were unable to attend a meeting of the convention. There will also be advice available from experts.

The first meeting of the convention will take place on December 1st in Dublin Castle and the “first formal working session” will be on the last weekend in January.

There will be at least eight “working weekends” in a hotel during the course of 2013 (with a break for July and August) where the designated topics for the convention will be discussed, beginning with proposals to reduce the presidential term from seven to five years and the voting age from 18 to 17 years.