Saturday 22 October 2016

Fionnan Sheahan: Interesting exercise, but jury out on how useful it will prove

Published 28/01/2013 | 05:00

THE sentiment of the members of the new think tank on the Constitution was summed up by the youngest of the cohort.

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"I felt it was part of my civic duty to take part and try to change the country," said Ian Cleary, a 19-year-old UCD student from Tallaght, Dublin.

The convention is an interesting social experiment, throwing together a mixture of a third seasoned politicians with two-thirds ordinary members of the public.

The independent chairman, Tom Arnold, tried manfully to limit the voices of microphone-hogging politicians and get as many so-called 'citizen members' into the debate.

The opening meeting set off on the pretty innocuous issues of the voting age and the presidential term.

Still, the convention had to start slowly to find its feet.

The ensuing debate highlighted both the advantages and disadvantages of the process.

Thrashing the issue out, it emerged there were concerns of the presidency getting caught up in the political issues at local and European level if run on the same day.

A range of other issues emerged of far greater import, such as the age rules for candidates, the nomination process, the power of the role and making the office more accountable.

But the convention is limited to merely noting these in its report, rather than making any firm proposals.

Besides, any recommendations the Government doesn't like will just be ignored.

Coming down the track are more contentious questions on the status of women, same-sex marriage and the Dail electoral system.

The Government wants detailed deliberation – as long as it can detail what's to be deliberated.

Irish Independent

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