Need for a citizens’ assembly?


Sir, – The issue is not whether or not we should have abortion in Ireland, we already have abortion in Ireland.

We have it legally at home and abroad and we have an unknown and unknowable number of terminations with illegally procured drugs and other means, but we delude ourselves that we don’t have abortion.

It is not so much what happens, but where it happens and whether we acknowledge that it happens.

The proposed citizens’ assembly is a kick to touch by the Government (and others) to distance themselves from the inevitable post-referendum repercussions that will ensue regardless of the outcome.

Procrastination on this issue has been our response for more than a generation. We elected 158 TDs to decide these matters and now they propose a mind-boggling handover of their responsibility to 99 “ordinary people” and a Supreme Court judge. These ordinary people reportedly will be chosen by a polling company “at random”, subject only to gender, age and regional spread. The only criteria for selection we know for certain is that they won’t be required to have expertise in anything.

The citizens’ assembly is a time-wasting pre-emptive scapegoat. This unelected council will undoubtedly try to justify its existence by recommending something more elaborate than a straightforward referendum on repeal, but any attempt to put meat on this particular bone is just continuing to kick the can down the road and will cause the same problems for years to come as the Eighth Amendment has triggered for the past 33 years.

Any proposed referendum must be a simple yes or no to the Eighth Amendment, anything else is attempting to write legislation into the Constitution.

Legislating by Constitution is this generation trying to carve contemporary thinking into immutable law on tablets of stone for future generations: dictating to our descendants is futile and patronising.

Laws will always evolve to suit their circumstances and needs of their time. It’s not for us to dictate how they should live, we will not be affected. We will be dead.

– Yours, etc,


Bothar tSlí Leathan,

Baile Átha Cliath 15.

Sir, – While I might not see eye to eye with Fr Iggy O’Donovan on the substantive issue of the repeal or retention of the Eighth Amendment (Letters, Sat, July 30th) I heartily endorse his scepticism regarding the so-called citizens’ assembly.

More than 2 million voters elected 158 fellow citizens to an assembly called Dáil Éireann earlier this year.

Between the time they were elected and the time they went on holiday these citizen representatives appear to have accomplished very little. One notable decision was to sub-contract the review of the Eighth Amendment to a non-constitutional, un-elected, un-democratic body.

This cynical move allowed the 158 citizen representatives to avoid the necessity of debating the sensitive moral, medical, social and constitutional issues in the public forum to which they had been elected.

Such an act of moral spinelessness can only further undermine public confidence in constitutional politics.

– Yours, etc,