Saturday 3 December 2016

We the citizens have a clear idea of what our needs are already

While new group's intentions are noble, it appears the horse has long bolted, writes Eamon Delaney

Published 17/04/2011 | 05:00

If you can't change the parliament, or even get into it, why not start a new one. Last week, a new people's political initiative called 'We the Citizens' was launched, with much fanfare and generous funding from Chuck Feeney's Atlantic Philanthrophies. But what exactly does it stand for?

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With the slogan 'Speak up for Ireland', the aim is hardly revolutionary. An opinion poll company is to carry out a survey of 1,000 citizens to get their views, after which 150 people, representing a cross-section of society, will be invited to participate in an assembly, so as to come to 'informed decisions about issues related to how government operates'. So it's like a giant focus group, except this time presided over by academics instead of politicians.

There are worthy people behind the idea, such as UCD's politics professor David Farrell and TCD's Elaine Byrne, who famously berated the middle-aged men of the Democracy Now group for postponing an earlier assault on the political system. But the new group's other board members have predictable overlaps into other groups and quangos (the Citizens Information Board, the National Forum on Europe) and really it just looks a lot like another big quango, albeit more private than public.

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