Thursday 14 December 2017

Emily O'Reilly: Parliament only subverts our Constitution

This is an edited extract from the 13th Annual John Hume Lecture delivered on Sunday at the MacGill Summer School by Emily O’Reilly, the Ombudsman and Information Commissioner.

THE republic that was created from the ashes of the Rising was a perversion of the human rights ideals of 1916. To this day, we as a people are not yet fully cognisant of what a real civic republic actually looks like. Prof Gerard Quinn of NUIG, speaking at an Amnesty International event in the wake of the publication of the reports on institutional abuse, stated: "The sheer weight of history would surely justify one in questioning whether there ever was a coherent moral and political vision behind the origins of the State." Indeed, it might, he argued, with some plausibility, that the State had an explicit ethnic rather and an ethical base. He further argued that the failure of the fledgling and adult State "were not simply failures to vindicate rights to adhere to the rule of law, and to ensure democratic processes worked; rather, they undermined the very idea of a republic".

I will base my comments primarily as Ombudsman over the past 10 years and on how I have observed the interplay as between citizen, administration, executive, parliament and judiciary in this country. As a general observation, I would say that it can be difficult at times for many people who live in this state – described, but not constitutionally named as a republic – to remind ourselves that, theoretically, we are the ones in charge. It is even at times hard for parliament to realise what its actual role is, and at times the executive itself and the judiciary even struggle.

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