A New Constitution: Which Parts Would You Change?

TonyB

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Last Saturday, Iceland held a strange election. They elected ordinary people charged with drafting a new constitution, taking advantage of their crisis to effect real change. I applaud them. What would you change about how our country is consituted? What clauses would you insert? What would you change?

If there is enough interest in this thread, would you be interested in helping to draft a new constitution? Is anyone actually doing this?

Here's some thoughts to get us going.

The Irish Constitution was written in the 1930s in an attempt to "green" and codify an inherited structure from Britain. The influence of the Catholic Church was tremendous, and many of the clauses were written under the watchful and influential eye of Archbishop John McQuaid, a hugely controversial figure, and one that many would argue was a malign influence on Ireland in the twentieth century.

Its strongly Catholic ethos is certainly not reflective of the state we live in today; its bill of rights, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, is liberating; the insistence on referenda for European Integration is arguably inefficient and unhelpful - the scope of influence of Europe is so broad as to make treaties almost impossible to agree.

The system of elections, the oireachtas, the constituencies and PR are not perfect. Clientelism should be eliminated, but people should have some recourse in public representation.

For more inspiration...most international constitutions are available online. Sweden for example is here, where the much discussed open list system is used for elections.

What would you add to our constitution, delete from it, or change?
 


corelli

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Well, first things first. The preamble with all the Roman Catholic clap trap in it.

"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom
is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all
actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our
Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our
fathers through centuries of trial"

The above needs to be removed, for a start.
 

TonyB

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Well, first things first. The preamble with all the Roman Catholic clap trap in it.
What about other Catholic clap trap...
Article 41
1. 1° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.
3. 1° The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.
 

carrickatuke

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Well, first things first. The preamble with all the Roman Catholic clap trap in it.

"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom
is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all
actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our
Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our
fathers through centuries of trial"

The above needs to be removed, for a start.
Why?
 

corelli

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Fr. Hank Tree

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Well, first things first. The preamble with all the Roman Catholic clap trap in it.

"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom
is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all
actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our
Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our
fathers through centuries of trial"

The above needs to be removed, for a start.
Why? What has that got to do with our current problems? How is it even remotely relevant or urgent? Why should it be given a priority over much more pressing deficiencies in the constitution?

It seems you're being ideological.

It is exactly this cuture of non-thinking that has been all-too-pervasive since the mid-60s that any changes to the constitution should seek to uproot.
 

corelli

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Why? What has that got to do with our current problems? How is it even remotely relevant or urgent? Why should it be given a priority over much more pressing deficiencies in the constitution?

It seems you're being ideological.

It is exactly this cuture of non-thinking that has been all-too-pervasive since the mid-60s that any changes to the constitution should seek to uproot.
Read the OP. I am starting at the start.

Are you suggesting that any redrafting should actually leave in that prehistoric nonsense?
 

Sisyphus

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The article protecting private property should be got rid of. It has been used to claim massive compensation for losses to landowners by the actions of the state. Private property is already protected by the civil law, so it doesn't need to be a constitutional right.
 

johnfás

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It seems you're being ideological.

It is exactly this cuture of non-thinking that has been all-too-pervasive since the mid-60s that any changes to the constitution should seek to uproot.
Both people who want to change things and people who want to not change things are ideological in nature. Let's have an honest debate at the very least.

What about other Catholic clap trap...
Article 41
1. 1° The State recognises the Family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of Society, and as a moral institution possessing inalienable and imprescriptible rights, antecedent and superior to all positive law.
3. 1° The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.
41.1.1 needs to remain essentially the same. You could perhaps tweak it - but would largely simply precipitate more court cases - but the basis of the family being private from the State is a fairly good thing except in exceptional situations... which can and are provided for by law. Our problem is the implementation of our existing laws (both because of will and resources) and a lack of political impetous to adequately legislate within the confines of the Constitution - which the Oireachtas could quite easily do.
 

blarney

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Why? What has that got to do with our current problems? How is it even remotely relevant or urgent? Why should it be given a priority over much more pressing deficiencies in the constitution?

It seems you're being ideological.

It is exactly this cuture of non-thinking that has been all-too-pervasive since the mid-60s that any changes to the constitution should seek to uproot.
I think his point is, if we're changing the whole thing, why not get rid of all the bad bits. This is one of the major bad bits. A republic cannot favour one religion over another. I agree there are much more urgent issues to be addressed. The urgent shouldn't necessarily crowd out the important either.
 

TonyB

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Why? What has that got to do with our current problems? How is it even remotely relevant or urgent? Why should it be given a priority over much more pressing deficiencies in the constitution?

It seems you're being ideological.
The constitution is about ideology, therefore this is critical. It is about defining who we are. And that begins in the preamble, and whether we are a secular state, or a quasi-theocracy, which is what in effect we were in 1937.

This is not law, it is not legislation, it is structural reform. It's not like we're prioritising one reform over another, its saying that the context in which we seek reform much change.

The only thing we're actually changing right now, or discussing changing, is the government. And it's one civil war option for another. Does that sound like genuine change?
 

TonyB

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41.1.1 needs to remain essentially the same. You could perhaps tweak it - but would largely simply precipitate more court cases - but the basis of the family being private from the State is a fairly good thing except in exceptional situations... which can and are provided for by law. Our problem is the implementation of our existing laws (both because of will and resources) and a lack of political impetous to adequately legislate within the confines of the Constitution - which the Oireachtas could quite easily do.
You're probably right...though I am inherently suspicious of Catholic stuff and my instinct is to dump it! Probably not a good instinct, but there you go...
 

TonyB

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The article protecting private property should be got rid of. It has been used to claim massive compensation for losses to landowners by the actions of the state. Private property is already protected by the civil law, so it doesn't need to be a constitutional right.
I don't understand...you mean compulsory purchase stuff?
 

corelli

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I don't understand...you mean compulsory purchase stuff?
And ground rents etc. He has a point, though I don't think you could get rid of it entirely. Certainly a clause curtailing, in the public interest, property rights may not be a bad thing.
 

johnfás

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I don't understand...you mean compulsory purchase stuff?
I assume he means the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court which holds that landowners must be paid market value (and sometimes a premium) in the context of compulsory purchase.

In respect of the State's right to actually make a compulsory purchase order - they don't need any further powers - they have extensive powers as it is. Property rights in Ireland (other than compensatory rights) are not half as strong as is sometimes suggested. I wrote an article on it a while ago, might dig it up.

And ground rents etc. He has a point, though I don't think you could get rid of it entirely. Certainly a clause curtailing, in the public interest, property rights may not be a bad thing.
As I said, CPO isn't the difficult thing - it is the cost associated which is sometimes the problem. Cases such as Clinton show that the threshold of justification relating to CPO is not particularly high.
 

readytogo

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Well, first things first. The preamble with all the Roman Catholic clap trap in it.

"In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom
is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all
actions both of men and States must be referred,
We, the people of Éire,
Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our
Divine Lord, Jesus Christ, Who sustained our
fathers through centuries of trial"

The above needs to be removed, for a start.
Actually this was very 'ecumenical' for its time. Catholics groups had wanted the country dedicated to specifically Catholic devotions, like the Sacred Heart or the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mainstream Protestantism is strongly Trinitarian (think Trinity College etc) so this was being deliberately non-sectarian.

The Constitution was fairly progressive in the context of 1930s Europe. It gave constitutional protection to the Jewish minority, and religious liberty was guaranteed to non-Catholics, even though the position of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church was that public worship of non-Catholic religions should be suppressed. The Church-State relationship as it existed in Franco's Spain was seen as the ideal arrangement. There was a lot of bitterness among many Catholics at the time that the pre-Reformation churches and cathedrals were still in the hands of the Anglican Church (including two in Dublin - Christchurch and St Patrick's). Many Protestants were afraid that they would be given back to the Catholics. That's why Dev including the following clause (Article 44, 6°): “The property of any religious denomination or any educational institution shall not be diverted save for necessary works of public utility and on payment of compensation.”
 
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TonyB

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Could you use the new constitution to radically restructure the civil service? Or would that be done by legislation? What about the position of barristers and hospital consultants?
 

Fr. Hank Tree

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Both people who want to change things and people who want to not change things are ideological in nature. Let's have an honest debate at the very least.
I'm not being ideological at all. I have no problem with that provision being dumped democratically. But it should at all times be remembered that it is a democratic matter. Contrary to what Corelli's post implies, there is nothing objectively wrong with that provision, especially as religious rights are safeguarded elsewhere.

Yet already we have had that provision described as a "bad bit" or "prehistoric" meaning that the debate is loaded before it's even begun.

This ideological obsession with "modernising" Ireland for the sake of it, even if that means by-passing democracy (and presenting references to God in the constitution as being objectively wrong and backward when that is really a value judgmentdoes amount to a by-passing of democarcy), is what has led to the rotten state we are in.
 


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