By Gearoid Fitzgibbon
Given the scale of the economic crisis in Ireland, it is no surprise that political reform was one of the key issues in the 2011 General Election. There was a sense that the “operating system” of Ireland, our constitution, needed to be upgraded.
Our democracy needed an upgrade and all parties came up with proposals including Fine Gael and Labour. Nine pages of the 64-page ‘Programme for Government’ were on the topic of political reform.
Along with a number of specific referendums, the Programme promised to establish a Constitutional Convention.
The government has recently begun to sketch the outlines of this convention. It will, we are told, consist of 100 members, 33 elected politicians, and the rest citizens.
It has yet to be decided how these citizens will be selected and the precise agenda for the Convention. With the right focus, such a convention has the potential to begin a radical transformation of politics. It’s time for Ireland Version 2.0 and upgrading our country’s Operating System will need the advocacy and input of people.
Draft Government proposals say that the Constitutional Convention should report within 12 months on:
· Our Dáil electoral system.
· Reducing the presidential term from seven to five years.
· Amending the clause on women in the home and encouraging more participation by women in public life.
· Removing blasphemy from the Constitution
· A reduction of the voting age.
Other constitutional amendments can also be considered.
Though the LCDP, community workers can play a role in assisting citizens groups feed into this process through awareness-raising events on the constitutional convention or by other means. Such work comes under LCDP Goal 4 which aims to get people in communities more involved in decision-making.
To read pages 17-26 online of the ‘Programme for Government’ look up: bit.ly/fglpfg2011. And, by the way, the Irish constitution is also now available online and even as an app for smart-phones.
– Gearoid Fitzgibbon is a community worker with North Tipperary Leader Partnership. Gearóid is chairperson of Changing Ireland Community Media Ltd.