Sir, – We call on the Government to establish a constitutional convention that is capable of fulfilling the Programme for Government’s commitment to “a real shift in power from the State to the citizen”. To achieve this, we believe there are some key issues the Cabinet needs to address before proceeding with the convention.
The work of the convention must be transparent, accessible and open to public participation at every stage of the process. There should be an education campaign through the media so that citizens can be fully informed about the convention and its activities.
The scope of topics for consideration by the convention is too narrow and will do little to reform political institutions or strengthen citizen rights in Ireland.
Citizens appointed to the convention need to be provided with the knowledge and supports necessary to participate effectively. Politicians in the convention should not be allowed to exert a greater influence over the process than that of ordinary citizens.
The Taoiseach has said, “It is for the Government to decide whether or not to bring forward legislation proposing constitutional change”.
This insistence calls the whole exercise into question. It would be more credible if a commitment were given to put the convention’s recommendations before the Oireachtas and subsequently to the people in a referendum.
We are also asking for a mechanism to be included in the convention process whereby civil society groups can address the convention in an appropriate manner.
The present format for the convention is unclear and has not taken on board the evidence of successful reform bodies internationally. The lack of parliamentary debate on this issue is of great concern to us; as is the lack of consultation with the public on the agenda and structure of the convention. It is only right that the public should have a say on the structure of a body tasked with revision of our constitution.
The Cabinet still has time to hold a period of public consultation and meaningful parliamentary discussion regarding the format of the convention. We call upon the Taoiseach to do so in advance of legislation establishing the constitutional convention and the appointment of its chairperson. – Yours, etc,
Dr CONOR O’MAHONY, Faculty of Law,