Reform body to meet next month


The first meeting of the Constitutional Convention will take place on Saturday December 1st in Dublin Castle, it has been confirmed.

Chairman of the convention Tom Arnold today paid a courtesy visit to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore in Dublin. His appointment as chair of the convention was announced last month.

The convention will be made up of 100 members, including the chairman. The number includes sixty six members of the public, chosen randomly from the electoral register, and 33 elected elected representatives – drawn from the Houses of the Oireachtas and a parliamentarian from each of the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The convention has been asked to consider a range of matters, covering both institutional and social issues.

Initially, it will examine reducing the presidential term of office to five years and aligning it with the local and European elections, and reducing the voting age to 17.

The Government expects the convention to report on these two matters within two months of the first public hearing.

Writing in The Irish Times last July, Mr Kenny and Mr Gilmore said the Government had publicly committed to responding to each recommendation from the convention within four months.

A debate in the Houses of the Oireachtas will be arranged in each case. Where the recommendations of the convention are accepted by the Government, it will then indicate the timeframe envisaged for the holding of a referendum.

More than 60 organisations have protested against their exclusion from membership of the convention and have signed a Civil Society Charter for a Constitutional Convention.

They include Amnesty International, Concern, Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Irish Refugee Council, National Traveller Women’s Forum, National Women’s Council of Ireland and Transparency International.

In July, the organisations called on the Government to create a convention that was “participative, inclusive and meaningful”.

Mr Arnold has been chief executive of Concern Worldwide since October 2001. He has indicated he will step down from his position with Concern Worldwide during 2013 as the work of the convention grows.

He is chairman of the Irish Times Trust and a director of the Irish Times Ltd.