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Posts Tagged ‘constitutional reform’

The Labour Party’s “One Ireland” and a Constitutional Convention

April 18, 2010 4 comments

Last night Éamon Gilmore gave the leader’s address at the Labour Party’s annual conference. Entitled ‘One Ireland’ the conference has had a distinctive emphasis on moving forward, as a country, away from what is conceived of as broken or corrupt and towards a more mature political life in this jurisdiction. The Gilmore speech, which can be watched in full here or read here, was extremely strong on this theme and—regardless of the colour of one’s politics—is worth watching or listening to as an exercise in oratory and speech writing. What struck me in particular, however, was the proposal by Gilmore that there would be a constitutional convention with a new constitution being ready for enactment in 2016 (at the centenary of the 1916 Rising).

I have written before on HRinI of my anxiety about populist constitutional reform. What Gilmore suggested seems to have been something at once more radical and less populist than what we have seen proposed by Fine Gael recently. Gilmore suggested that we would establish a constitutional convention made up of experts and a randomly selected portion of the community (he did not mention how large the sample would be) to debate and propose new constitutional structures. The justification given for this was that the Constitution is a document written in the 1930s for the 1930s when there was considered to be one Church in Ireland and one role for women (I am paraphrasing but, as you will hear if you listen to the speech, not by much). Similar themes were recently in evidence at the excellent political cabaret, Leviathan, which suggested a new Constitution and Second Republic earlier this year. Fine Gael’s New Politics which we have written about before suggests some major constitutional reforms but does not suggest a whole-scale redrawing of the Bunreacht. Read more…

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Fine Gael’s New Politics and the Abolition of the Seanad

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Fine Gael’s New Politics proposals include a proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann and move towards a unicameral system of parliament. In this post I want to express some concerns, based firmly in a human rights perspective, about this proposal. First of all we should note that the Seanad, or upper house, is by no means a perfect institution. In fact, there are many things that are objectionable about it including the means by which it is populated. However, for the reasons that I outline below, I am not convinced that abolition of the Seanad is the way forward or that Fine Gael have made out a strong enough case for this kind of momentous constitutional change. I have identified five primary claims in New Politics for the abolition of the Seanad and I consider these claims, and their merits, after the jump.

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Constitutional Revolution III: Further Thoughts on Process

March 15, 2010 7 comments

As weekend readers will know, we had some discussion on Saturday of the Fine Gael proposals to hold a ‘Constitution Day’ within 12 months of entering Government which would see five reforms of the Constitution to declare a ‘New Republic’. Yesterday I made the point that piecemeal constitutional reform for electoral rather than principled reasons (or at best half-thought-through principled reasons) has resulted in a failed process of reform in the UK – eg in relation to the House of Lords. I argued that any serious overhaul of the Constitution would have to take account of the need for a complete system of government. Today, I will look at three further factors that might scupper Fine Gael’s efforts at serious overhaul (bearing in mind that this is regardless of the merits of the proposals themselves): coalition government, the referendum mechanism and the need to embed constitutional change. Read more…