The Legitimacy of Referendum Results for Future Generations

ruserious

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Generally, policy resulting from Constitutional change due to a referendum will not be changed unless there is another referendum on the topic in the future (eg various abortion referendums).

My question to the forum is this: How long does a referendum result hold legitimacy?

Take for example the GFA which enjoyed massive support amongst the Irish electorate. That referendum is over 20 years ago. Many of the electorate in the referendum are now dead. In 50 years time, I imagine virtually all those who voted that day will be dead or not too far off it. And if the GFA outlives those who voted for it; does it maintain legitimacy, or should generational referenda take place to rubber stamp approval (or against) to maintain legitimacy.

The Constitution was enacted following a 1937 referendum. You would be hard pressed to find many of those who took part that day. Are we thus in danger of being ruled by the dead, as it were.

I would guess that most of us would like to see the Irish State survive for as long as humans are around on this rock. And so many crucial referenda on the nature of our State took place in our or our parent's lives. How can we legitimately expect future generations of Irish people to adhere to law that we voted on?

I haven't made up my mind either way. I look forward to hearing various sides to the argument though.

- rus.
 


firefly123

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I guess we build our societies on the bedrock of previous generations and look to change things as society changes. Referenda are a snapshot in time but then so is all legislation. as long as we maintain the democratic right to have a change of mind then they hold validity.
the idea a referendum(or any legislation) is eternal and immutable is inherently anti democratic.
 

ruserious

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I guess we build our societies on the bedrock of previous generations and look to change things as society changes. Referenda are a snapshot in time but then so is all legislation. as long as we maintain the democratic right to have a change of mind then they hold validity.
the idea a referendum(or any legislation) is eternal and immutable is inherently anti democratic.
Good point. The possibility to bring in new referendums is a significant argument against generational referendum rubber stamping. But I would say that when it comes to the Constitution as a whole, it is pretty rock solid in the foundation and operation of this State. Slight danger of becoming a necocracy.
 

owedtojoy

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Generally, policy resulting from Constitutional change due to a referendum will not be changed unless there is another referendum on the topic in the future (eg various abortion referendums).

My question to the forum is this: How long does a referendum result hold legitimacy?

Take for example the GFA which enjoyed massive support amongst the Irish electorate. That referendum is over 20 years ago. Many of the electorate in the referendum are now dead. In 50 years time, I imagine virtually all those who voted that day will be dead or not too far off it. And if the GFA outlives those who voted for it; does it maintain legitimacy, or should generational referenda take place to rubber stamp approval (or against) to maintain legitimacy.

The Constitution was enacted following a 1937 referendum. You would be hard pressed to find many of those who took part that day. Are we thus in danger of being ruled by the dead, as it were.

I would guess that most of us would like to see the Irish State survive for as long as humans are around on this rock. And so many crucial referenda on the nature of our State took place in our or our parent's lives. How can we legitimately expect future generations of Irish people to adhere to law that we voted on?

I haven't made up my mind either way. I look forward to hearing various sides to the argument though.

- rus.
That is what we mean by the Rule of Law.

We are a Republic of Laws, not a Republic of a King, Dictator or Autocrat.

That means the laws stay in place until the people change it by legal means, within the agreed constitutional constraints.

We have no problem if our children discuss and approve a new Constitution. We do have a problem with people who assert they can abruptly change the Constitution to their own ideology in pursuit of some current political aims.
 

man-in-street

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Generally, policy resulting from Constitutional change due to a referendum will not be changed unless there is another referendum on the topic in the future (eg various abortion referendums).

My question to the forum is this: How long does a referendum result hold legitimacy?

Take for example the GFA which enjoyed massive support amongst the Irish electorate. That referendum is over 20 years ago. Many of the electorate in the referendum are now dead. In 50 years time, I imagine virtually all those who voted that day will be dead or not too far off it. And if the GFA outlives those who voted for it; does it maintain legitimacy, or should generational referenda take place to rubber stamp approval (or against) to maintain legitimacy.

The Constitution was enacted following a 1937 referendum. You would be hard pressed to find many of those who took part that day. Are we thus in danger of being ruled by the dead, as it were.

I would guess that most of us would like to see the Irish State survive for as long as humans are around on this rock. And so many crucial referenda on the nature of our State took place in our or our parent's lives. How can we legitimately expect future generations of Irish people to adhere to law that we voted on?

I haven't made up my mind either way. I look forward to hearing various sides to the argument though.

- rus.
The constitution should be,either, renewed or validated by a vote of the people every thirty years(one generation)irrespective of any other considerations. To have any generation bound by the precepts of any and all previous generations is entirely unreasonable.

This would, necessarily, involve having a new constitution to begin the procedure.

some suggestions for a starting constitution would be,

1/ The Government has the power to declare a National Fiscal Emergency.
Consider if the then Government had this power when the crash happened, would it have made a difference?.

2/ Private property rights shall reside in the individual and shall not devolve to companies or corporations or to any person that is not a citizen of Ireland.

And whatever you're having yourself.
 

GDPR

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Generally, policy resulting from Constitutional change due to a referendum will not be changed unless there is another referendum on the topic in the future (eg various abortion referendums).

My question to the forum is this: How long does a referendum result hold legitimacy?

Take for example the GFA which enjoyed massive support amongst the Irish electorate. That referendum is over 20 years ago. Many of the electorate in the referendum are now dead. In 50 years time, I imagine virtually all those who voted that day will be dead or not too far off it. And if the GFA outlives those who voted for it; does it maintain legitimacy, or should generational referenda take place to rubber stamp approval (or against) to maintain legitimacy.

The Constitution was enacted following a 1937 referendum. You would be hard pressed to find many of those who took part that day. Are we thus in danger of being ruled by the dead, as it were.

I would guess that most of us would like to see the Irish State survive for as long as humans are around on this rock. And so many crucial referenda on the nature of our State took place in our or our parent's lives. How can we legitimately expect future generations of Irish people to adhere to law that we voted on?

I haven't made up my mind either way. I look forward to hearing various sides to the argument though.

- rus.
Well thats a funny example to use given the GFA specifically predicates a future Referendum on the Border. Its essential to the Treaty.
 

The Field Marshal

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I think the American constitution is over 200 years old and we don't hear Americans whinging that they are ruled by the dead.

Quite the contrary most Americans are very proud of their constitution.

It is only the God and Church haters in Ireland who seem to be always in a lather about Bunreacht na HEireann.
 

recedite

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A referendum is valid until it is overturned or modified by the next one.
Occasionally you'll hear politician's saying "this is a once in a lifetime" or a "once in a generation" referendum but that is undemocratic bull$hit. It was said by politicians in our last referendum and also in the Scottish independence ref.

Whenever there is popular support for an updated one, it should be held.
 

CatullusV

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I think the American constitution is over 200 years old and we don't hear Americans whinging that they are ruled by the dead.

Quite the contrary most Americans are very proud of their constitution.

It is only the God and Church haters in Ireland who seem to be always in a lather about Bunreacht na HEireann.
They do at Supreme Court level. Even at that level there are difficulties in the philosophical sense as to whether the contents should be interpreted using current mores or applied strictly with respect to the intentions of the original drafters.
 

Mitsui2

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It is only the God and Church haters in Ireland who seem to be always in a lather about Bunreacht na HEireann.
Biggest and most hysterical "lather" about the Constitution in my lifetime was the campaign for the 8th in 1983. Precious few "Church haters" behind that one, Marsh.
 

midlander12

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Generally, policy resulting from Constitutional change due to a referendum will not be changed unless there is another referendum on the topic in the future (eg various abortion referendums).

My question to the forum is this: How long does a referendum result hold legitimacy?

Take for example the GFA which enjoyed massive support amongst the Irish electorate. That referendum is over 20 years ago. Many of the electorate in the referendum are now dead. In 50 years time, I imagine virtually all those who voted that day will be dead or not too far off it. And if the GFA outlives those who voted for it; does it maintain legitimacy, or should generational referenda take place to rubber stamp approval (or against) to maintain legitimacy.

The Constitution was enacted following a 1937 referendum. You would be hard pressed to find many of those who took part that day. Are we thus in danger of being ruled by the dead, as it were.

I would guess that most of us would like to see the Irish State survive for as long as humans are around on this rock. And so many crucial referenda on the nature of our State took place in our or our parent's lives. How can we legitimately expect future generations of Irish people to adhere to law that we voted on?

I haven't made up my mind either way. I look forward to hearing various sides to the argument though.

- rus.
35 years seems to work!
 

Finbar10

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I generally agree with the OP. I can think of two major ways to ensure that the current constitution has the support of the people alive today.

One simple way is to have a citizens initiative mechanism in the constitution. Then, if there's sufficient demand as demonstrated by maybe 100k or 200k signatures, then the people themselves can initiate referendums to alter it.

The other approach (particularly if one doesn't like the idea of direct democracy) is to have a regular constitutional review mechanism, where a constitutional assembly has to be formed every, say, 25 years. This assembly might deliberate for several months and then have the power to call referendum(s) on its proposals.

25 years is a nice round figure. I guess one should be called whenever roughly half the people who voted for the proposals of the last assembly are dead! :)

How might such an assembly be selected? Election would be simplest method. Icelanders did it this way a few years back and their assembly wrote quite a nice draft constitution. However, I think it needed to be ratified by two successive parliaments. The coalition that called the assembly was voted out in the next election, so the shiny new constitution was never ratified.

Some might ask, why couldn't the Dáil just do this? However, people don't really vote for TDs based on constitutional issues. IMO it would be best to specifically have elections for this. It's likely TDs specializing in constitutional reform from the main parties would be elected. However, some independent experts might get elected too. Different parties or parties might propose different reform mandates/ideas. Assembly composition might be quite different from GE patterns.

There would also likely be significant Dáil work on proposals in the run-up to the formation of assemblies (parties formulating policies also).

An alternative to election would be to have full or partial membership composed of randomly chosen citizens. As we've seen in our more limited recent "constitutional assembly", if one only uses polling companies, the methodology can leave much to be desired. And there's the issue of self-selection bias: if you have to ask dozens of people for every one that signs up, you've probably only going to get political nerds and those most interested in constitutional matters (perhaps not the most representative). Those problems could be addressed by making membership compulsory in the way jury service is (plus generous financial compensation). However, asking people to sign up for a lengthy period could be problematic.

A downside of electing people would be that there are features of the system that politicians might not like to change and regular politicians would likely make up the majority of an elected assembly, e.g. why alter the electoral system you were the winner in?

Perhaps a mix of elected and random members might be interesting. Probably would need 100+ random members to be representative. But perhaps they should have only one third of the voting power. That would be enough to shake things up politically but still give the elected representatives the guiding say.

Anyway, I think a comprehensive constitutional overhaul once a generation would be a great idea.
 
Last edited:

arsenal

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I think the American constitution is over 200 years old and we don't hear Americans whinging that they are ruled by the dead.

Quite the contrary most Americans are very proud of their constitution.

It is only the God and Church haters in Ireland who seem to be always in a lather about Bunreacht na HEireann.
Part of the problem with the US is the elements within their constitution that may well have outlived their time. It is extremely difficult to amend the US constitution, with I believe 75% of states having to agree for an amendment to pass. Holding up a document written well over 200 years ago as perfect and flawless when society and technology and movement of people has changes so much is ridiculous. WE now have motor cars and internet. The "founding fathers" were human beings not some other-wordly super beings.

The lack of a realistic possibility of amending the US constitution is a big flaw with the US as a country in this day and age.
 

CatullusV

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35 years seems to work!
The French are on their fifth republic. It's not formalised that there will be a sixth, but there will be. My proposal would be to compartmentalise a constitution. Bunreacht is already thus. Leave the institutional arrangements en bloc, and amenable to amendment by ad hoc referendum. Repackage, amend and propose the elements relating to things such as personal rights etc on a scheduled basis for ratification by the public. 35 years sounds good.

I'd also mandate or maybe instruct the SC to apply contemporaneous considerations to their deliberations. Finally, I'd allow a sunset clause of maybe ten years after their decisions after which a finding may be challenged if the societal landscape has changed sufficiently to warrant such.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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No
They do at Supreme Court level. Even at that level there are difficulties in the philosophical sense as to whether the contents should be interpreted using current mores or applied strictly with respect to the intentions of the original drafters.
well that should really be an easy question to answer because those who framed the Irish constitution specifically made the point that the constitution should move in response to the people.

There's a terrible and sometimes quite deliberate misunderstanding about the constitution in some quarters- that it is some kind of Moses style writing on stone that shouldn't be disturbed. That view was not held by those who wrote the constitution and they actually said so at the time.

It doesn't matter if social reactionaries adhere to a hundred year old ambition- are they ever likely to do anything else? They are social reactionaries after all and inherently dislike any kind of change.

By definition they are the very worst sort of people to look to for solutions to modern day issues.
 

Civic_critic2

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We are a Republic of Laws, not a Republic of a King, Dictator or Autocrat.
You are a state founded on British guns, British military personnel and British threats of invasion, mediated through a bourgeoisie who have used all of these to enthrone themselves and literally and metaphorically fuk the country and its people for a century. The only reason you have any sense of gravitas about the whole thing is because you are devoid of a sense of what has been lost and have a material interest in the kind of stunted, runty, abusive remnant of a possibility that remains.
 

fifilawe

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Never mind future generations what about the "Losers who voted to keep the 8th" how many messages have they and those "Winners who voted Repeal the 8th" posted since the result. I've distanced myself from the thread as it for "Die-Hards" who will never accept the opinion of others whether in the minority or the majority.It is part of the human condition we cannot all accept things as they are , we want them to suit our own inclinations, biases, ..... that's why we shall never have the "Perfect society"/Utopia on earth
 


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