Fine Gael have produced proposals for Dail Reform which include a commitment to forming a Citizens Assembly to “undertake a detailed review of a limited number of key issues over an extended time period”.
This is somewhat similar to the Constitutional Convention, but whereas the Constitutional Convention was composed both of citizens and Oireachtas members, the Citizens Assembly would be composed entirely of citizens.
The remit of the Assembly would be quite limited, in that they would only be able to consider proposals tabled by the Government, and recommendations would only be referred to Oireachtas committees. The types of issues it would consider would include Seanad Reform, Climate Change, the 8th Amendment (abortion), the power of Oireachtas committees and (for some unknown reason) how we deal with old people.
This is interesting on a number of levels.
It shows that there is some concern among the political parties about the gap that is continually widening between the professional political class and ordinary people. That’s welcome.
On the other hand, its further evidence of how deeply flawed Government by elections is becoming. Issues like Climate Change and abortion have been around for decades. Everybody knows what needs to be done. The problem is that no politician who depends on being re-elected wants to deal with these issues, as they know that dealing with them in any meaningful risks alienating vast swathes of the electorate.
The question therefore arises that if elected politicians need ordinary citizens selected at random to provide cover for their decisions, why not just let the ordinary citizens selected at random make the decisions in the first place?
You can view the proposals in full here.