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Citizens' assembly backs plan for gender quotas

MORE women in government, a reformed Seanad and mandatory voting are some of the changes the citizens of Ireland want to see happening, according to a unique assembly.

The first National Citizens' Assembly took place at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, on Saturday and Sunday.

The assembly was organised by We The Citizens, a national independent initiative aimed at showing how Ireland could benefit from public engagement in decision making.

During the two days of deliberation the assembly, made up of over 100 people representing a cross-section of Irish society, heard expert witnesses give the pros and cons of issues before making a series of recommendations on how the Government should change to serve its people better.

The full results will be collected over the next few days and then will be presented to the Government.

Preliminary findings show the assembly, which represents every county and age range from 18 years to 80, voted narrowly in favour of gender quotas in politics.

Some 51pc backed the Government's proposals to introduce penalties for political parties which do not field 30pc of women candidates.

Just over half of participants supported the introduction of mandatory voting.


They were also strongly in favour of retaining our current method of voting rather than switching over to electronic voting.

On the role of the TD, the citizens were almost unanimous that local government should be strengthened to allow TDs to focus on national issues while 65pc voted for a reduction in the number of TDs.

In addition two thirds to one-third of the assembly voted for the reform of the Seanad, rather than its abolition.

Chairperson Fiach Mac Conghail told assembly members that while there was no doubt experts were needed in decision making, there was enormous untapped expertise among the citizens of this country.

"The purpose of this weekend is to demonstrate to the Government, and to all of the political parties, that engaging with citizens in between elections works," he said.

"They have all promised new ways to engage citizens in political decision-making. We want to show them that this model can work, and that they should use it."

Irish Independent