News Dan O'Brien

Saturday 3 December 2016

Democracy better served through plebiscites

Holding unnecessary by-elections is pointless and having referendums on every change to the Constitution is harmful

Published 17/05/2015 | 02:30

EUROPE’S WAY: When Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa stood down in 2012, he was replaced by Emer Costello. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
EUROPE’S WAY: When Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa stood down in 2012, he was replaced by Emer Costello. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

The holding of by-elections is dumb. The use of referendums as the sole means of amending a constitution is not much smarter. As two referendums and a by-election will be held next week, this is a good moment to make the case for the scrapping of both.

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Many people are likely to react to such a suggestion with scepticism, or even shock. Surely such a proposal is an affront to democracy?

No, actually, it isn't. Few democracies around the world hold by-elections. Even fewer use referendums to change their constitutions. Ireland is almost alone in the entire world in using both. One could conclude from this Ireland is one of the most democratic countries in the world. But that conclusion would be wrong.

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