Letting Citizens Speak: Ireland’s Referendums and Constitutional Mini-publics
Ireland has been a trailblazer in the use of deliberative mini-publics to discuss important topics of constitutional reform. The Constitutional Convention of 2012-14 and the Citizens’ Assembly of 2016-18 (whose membership comprised random selections of regular citizens) were established by the Irish government and tasked with considering a series of constitutional reform proposals.
Successful referendums on marriage equality in 2015 and abortion in 2018 have already taken place, with more referendums due in coming months. These provide good examples of how democracies can bring citizens into the heart of discussions over constitutional and political reform.
This talk by Professor David Farrell (University College Dublin) will set out the genesis of these experiments in the midst of Ireland’s worst ever economic crisis. It will review how these mini-publics were established, and their main outcomes. It will consider the common criticisms of forums such as these and consider their wider potential as democratic innovations.
David Farrell is Professor of Politics and Head of School in the School of Politics and International Relations, University College Dublin. He is a specialist in the study of parties, elections, electoral systems and members of parliament. His current research focuses on the role of deliberation in constitutional reform processes. He is the ‘research leader’ of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly (funded by the Irish Research Council).
Hon. Penny Sharpe was first elected to the NSW Legislative Council in October 2005. Penny is currently Labor’s Shadow Minister for Planning, Environment and Heritage. Penny’s policy interests include public transport, the environment, education, women, LGBTI reform and e democracy. In recent years Penny has led high-profile bipartisan policy changes including ensuring safe access to abortion clinics, and setting up an inquiry into historic gay hate crimes.