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Constitutional Convention Website/Webcast at 2pm today


Finbar10

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The Constitutional Convention website is now up and running, and its inaugural meeting will be streamed live there starting at 2pm today (the schedule can be found here). The website allows one to make submissions on the various (very underwhelming) list of topics:

  1. reducing the Presidential term of office to five years and aligning it with the local and European elections;
  2. reducing the voting age to 17;
  3. review of the Dáil electoral system;
  4. giving citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections at Irish embassies, or otherwise;
  5. provision for same-sex marriage;
  6. amending the clause on the role of women in the home and encouraging greater participation of women in public life;
  7. increasing the participation of women in politics;
  8. removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution; and
  9. following completion of the above reports, such other relevant constitutional amendments that may be recommended by it;
I suppose, if one wants to grasp at straws, one could point to the final item "other relevant constitutional amendments that may be recommended by it". But, if one is hoping for some change in the way this country is governed, then the list doesn't inspire much confidence.

Essentially, we borrowed the British system of government at the foundation of the state. They seem to be able to make that setup work reasonably ok across the water, perhaps by having learned the hard way over many centuries, slowly developing a certain tradition/political culture, and being able to self-regulate to a degree (e.g. parliamentary inquiries were horribly abused in the 19th century in politically partisan ways, so eventually they decided to self-regulate and hand over control of inquiries to independent figures in tribunals/independent inquiries when quasi-judicial matters were being investigated).

We adopted that system. OK, we do have a constitution, but that really only puts constraints on government in the areas of national sovereignty and fundamental rights. Otherwise our constitution puts remarkably few constraints on government (it can do almost everything it wants via legislation). And the Oireachtas does a remarkably poor job in acting as a constraint (the Seanad I guess could be allowed to act in this way to a modest degree if it was permitted, but voluntarily putting in place such checks-and-balances doesn't seem to be an Irish political thing).

If one looks back at previous constitutional referendums (see Amendments to the Constitution of Ireland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ) it's remarkable how many are either concerned with national sovereignty (e.g. international treaty ratification) or social/religious/rights issues. Admittedly there were also a few doing some administrative tidying up (adoption board, bail, voting qualifications, cabinet confidentiality, university Seanad panels (unimplemented)). I suppose there was a referendum to insert an article on local government (but however had almost no practical effect, other than requiring that there be some form of local government and that elections be held every five years).

One genuine rare constitutional constraint on government is how it prescribes the form of electoral system. Another is how fundamental rights have turned out to constrain the Oireachtas' inquiry powers. FF unsuccessfully tried on a number of occasions to change this. And we know how the Oireachtas inquiries referendum turned out! ;) Other than those two issues, there's very little that restricts government power in any way. There's absolutely no reason why governments would alter the constitution in any major way that would impact on governance. Any such amendment would almost inevitably impinge and constrain the power of the Taoiseach/cabinet in some way. Unsurprisingly, none of our past referendums have sought to alter in any way the underlying system we copied from the UK.

The agenda of the Constitutional Convention looks like more of the same (some tinkering with rights/social policy/the voting age again/some minor tweaking of a ceremonial office). I guess there's some promise in the promised review of the electoral system. That's perhaps an area where ordinary participants might be able to get up to some mischief. But it's likely any recommendations in this area would be ignored or long-fingered until after the next GE anyway.
 

Finbar10

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Started with two talks by Justice Gerard Hogan and Dermot Keogh of UCC on the constitution and its history. Gerard Hogan's talk (quite short, less than 10 minutes) was quite good (well worth having a listen to if this gets archived on the website). A short summary of some of his previous work (some of the influences on the drafting of the current constitution, Weimar, Swiss referendum provisions etc., strongly stands up for its fundamental rights/judicial review aspects).

Next up some speeches by the party leaders, hmmm :) Finally at 3:40, some info for 20 minutes on previous conventions elsewhere in the world by political scientists Jane Suiter and David Farrell. So far Gerard Hogan's contribution was worth a listen anyway.
 

Finbar10

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Taoiseach and Tánaiste saying pretty much what might be expected. Gerry Adams (sporting dark sunglasses which, if my Irish is up to scratch, is due to a recent eye operation), Michael Martin and Maureen O'Sullivan bemoaning narrowness of agenda. Martin not unreasonably exhorted the participants to not be afraid of pushing the boundaries of the agenda, or deal with governmental structures when dealing with electoral system, and not be afraid to make far-reaching recommendations. Emphasis by O'Sullivan on socio-economic rights and lack of their inclusion. Finishing off now with Jane Suiter and David Farrell giving talks on experience with previous conventions elsewhere (ongoing at moment).
 

darkknight

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This should/could have been a very significant event.
But the terms of reference seem very restrictive. The unexciting nature of the agenda seems to be reflected in the flatness of the atmosphere during today's proceedings.
 

Johnny Zordan

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Reducing the presidents term to 5 years ??? How the fùck would that make the country better? Why not abolish the useless powerless office of president altogether ?
 

Mattarigna

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Those things are their idea of radical political reform? I would say that you could easily make a list of 50 things that would constitute radical political reform without amending the constitution. Although personally, I would prefer putting some of those reforms in the constitution, to ensure that the reforms can't be sabotaged by future governments.
 

Mattarigna

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This should/could have been a very significant event.
But the terms of reference seem very restrictive. The unexciting nature of the agenda seems to be reflected in the flatness of the atmosphere during today's proceedings.
I would not have expected anything else from our government, to be honest.
 

Mattarigna

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Martin not unreasonably exhorted the participants to not be afraid of pushing the boundaries of the agenda, or deal with governmental structures when dealing with electoral system, and not be afraid to make far-reaching recommendations.
The hypocrite.
 

Mattarigna

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OK, we do have a constitution, but that really only puts constraints on government in the areas of national sovereignty and fundamental rights. Otherwise our constitution puts remarkably few constraints on government (it can do almost everything it wants via legislation).
What sort of restraints would you see in other countries?
 

Ribeye

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The Irish Constition is dead from the neck up and should be shredded,

It was destined to fail, and of course, it has,

A couple of drunk hedgehogs would be more effective at keeping the govt in line,

This convention thing is a farce to keep the sheep distracted!
 

Ribeye

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What sort of restraints would you see in other countries?
The US Constitution is the model, although even that wasn't strong enough to stop the scum, and has also failed,
 

Mattarigna

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The Irish Constition is dead from the neck up and should be shredded,

It was destined to fail, and of course, it has,

A couple of drunk hedgehogs would be more effective at keeping the govt in line,

This convention thing is a farce to keep the sheep distracted!
I'm sort of jumping between that and having a load of referendums to ratify quite a few of the problems and ensuring that future governments cannot discreetly sabotage any check or balance in the system.
 

Mattarigna

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The US Constitution is the model, although even that wasn't strong enough to stop the scum, and has also failed,
Isn't the US constitution the shortest in the world? How could there be a load of restraints from that?
 

Dame_Enda

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Care to tell us about it?

Me? I wouldn't bother - I reject most of the proposals, and I don't expect it to achieve anything.
I want the govt and Oireachtas to be separated like in the US so the Oireachtas will be a check on the govt, rather than at present the lapdog of the govt. I want ministerial nominations sent to the Oireachtas for approval/rejection in order to weed out conflicts of interest such as a certain Minister's interest in private nursing homes. It would also make the govt more coherent instead of pandering to Coalition partners over every hospital, school etc.
 
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Ribeye

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Isn't the US constitution the shortest in the world? How could there be a load of restraints from that?
Is it the shortest, didn't know that,

Makes sense though, no need to over complicate, no flowery waffling,

Just clean, clear and concise,

Eg - 1st Amendment,

"Congress shall make NO LAWS abridging the freedom of speech"

No messin here, quite clear,

"No fckn laws lads, none, nope, not even a small one, now p1ss off"

And low and behold, the USA, last refuge of free speech on earth,

Look at that Leveson sh1te in the UK, fckn Hugh Grant, gimme a break!
 

Mattarigna

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Is it the shortest, didn't know that,

Makes sense though, no need to over complicate, no flowery waffling,

Just clean, clear and concise,

Eg - 1st Amendment,

"Congress shall make NO LAWS abridging the freedom of speech"

No messin here, quite clear,

"No fckn laws lads, none, nope, not even a small one, now p1ss off"

And low and behold, the USA, last refuge of free speech on earth,

Look at that Leveson sh1te in the UK, fckn Hugh Grant, gimme a break!
What's wrong with the UK at the moment?
 

cogar

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I see GA was wearing dark glasses - not a shiner I hope - NOT!
 
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