Citizen's Assembly - a political prophylactic?

Until a couple of days ago the Citizen’s Assembly was a term I’d only heard once or twice being bandied around by Enda Kenny. Suddenly it seems to have sprung to life fully formed, and is already in session. Who are these people? Apparently they’ve been recruited by Red C Research and Marketing Ltd according to the methodology set out here. They have a website at, which tells us that the CA is an “exercise in deliberative democracy, placing the citizen at the heart of important legal and policy issues facing Irish society today”.

I have mixed thoughts on this arrangement, most of them bad. The first and most obvious is that the Citizen’s Assembly is – as a commentator on put it – a political condom for FG and FF to deflect negative attention from politicians when they call a referendum on the 8th amendment. But apart from that most controversial issue (which is first on the CA agenda and for which they are now collecting submissions) the CA will also discuss a variety of topics including “Making Ireland a leader in tackling climate change”. To me this underscores how the people who set the agenda are calling the shots. What about those of us who think that Ireland shouldn’t touch this issue with a forty foot antiseptic barge pole?

Another thought is that 99 randomly selected citizens are going to have approximately zero expertise in any specialised area. That is pretty much guaranteed anyway since, in the interests of impartiality, the selection methodology disqualifies anyone connected with an advocacy group on any of the discussion topics. Instead, the CA will be given “the benefit of expert, impartial and factual advice”. Uh, so what do we elect politicians for then? Taking the most generous possible view, the idea of [ democracy*deliberative * ( is that it is free from the spin and political strategising that beset anything touched by politicians. The flip side of that coin is decreased accountability – one of the few forms of leverage we have over our politicians is that it’s their goolies on the chopping block.

So is the Citizen’s Assembly a brave new development for Irish democracy or just the latest exercise in political buck passing? Thought’s on a postcard…

The point of it is to recommend to them to have the referendum about the 8th amendment. The rest is window dressing so it’s not seen as just existing for this single issue.

It’s an issue that is going to lose votes for FG and FF no matter what they do, which is why no one was prepared to do anything in relation to abortion for about 20 years.

My guess is they’ll recommend a 8th amendment referendum, but not to repeal it, rather replace it with something vague and unworkable in an attempt to appease all, and they’ll hope the issue will be kicked to touch for another few years. (It won’t be and the compromise will antagonise both sides of the abortion debate.)

After which we’ll never hear another peep from the Citizens Assembly until there’s a report in a few years hence about how much the board is being paid for such little work.

All the while another Irish solution to an Irish problem is being found… … land-study

Voters who want to ‘Repeal the Eighth’ just want it dropped, not replaced.

FF/FG know that it’s a potential vote loser, and don’t want to be under fire from the loony right or left, so this is one way of showing impartiality, or not taking responsibility for this particular issue. I think it’s somewhat cowardly, as we elect lawmakers to pass laws, and they should do their job.

So I can understand it, but still think it’s a Weaselly way around a thorny issue.

I guess we’'ll see how that pans out…

My guess is it’ll be full of closet activists (Socialist Workers types will infiltrate anything) and head the balls

+1 ps. It’s a complete waste of time. For those who want the 8th retained, it’s just a smokescreen to deflect blame from the government. For those that want the 8th repealed, it’s a 1-year delaying tactic.

I think everyone can agree it’s basically a way for the government to avoid providing leadership on this issue.

Just another way for our invertebrate politicians to avoid actually governing.

Constitutional Convention anyone?

Of course if the politicians don’t like what they are getting back then they can just ignore it. … 6-Jan2015/

I’m all for Citizen assemblies/Conventions. I think they should replace the Seanad with one. Every year 99 Citizens, 51 Women, 48 men and proportionally from Dublin, Leinster, Munster, Connaught and Leinster should be drawn to act as a Jury of the Government with powers to send Dáil bills back for discussion if they feel they have been rushed or ill-thought out. It’ll never happen but if it was good enough for Athens why not us.

This one is a political prophylactic over repealing the 8th but from small acorns …

massive misdirection, media reports on assembly while ignoring what goes on in dail

How about, we elect the citizens assembly while the sons & daughters of TDs take up their hereditary TDship in Dail Eireann