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Catherine Murphy joins with Technical Group Deputies to make detailed proposals on the Constitutional Convention

National Issues | 7th March 2012

Deputy Catherine Murphy (Independent – Kildare North) today joined with her Technical Group colleagues in making a detailed submission to the Government on the structure, operation and remit of the proposed Constitutional Convention.

The proposals were made following an invitation from the Taoiseach last week, which Deputy Murphy attended representing the Independent members of the Technical Group.

“Bunreacht na hÉireann, while at its core is a durable and lasting foundation document, nevertheless contains many provisions which have not stood the test of time, and are out of step with modern Ireland.  Today my colleagues and I laid out a detailed, well-constructed and viable proposals which we hope address those anachronisms.

“As a starting point we’ve made clear that there is little point in engaging in a piecemeal revision, which appears to be the Government’s approach. The several articles of the Constitution do not exist in absoute isolation from one another, and so if a more holistic approach is adopted we can make sure that the revisions the Convention eventually adopts will stand the test of time.

 

Extract from Technical Group Submission

TERM OF THE CONVENTION: It is recommended that a less arbitrary and more practicable timeframe be established for the Convention based upon the amount of time it is estimated each topic of review is likely to require.
TOPICS FOR REVIEW: It is recommended that a less narrow and compartmentalised set of topics be reviewed by the Convention due to the level of interconnectedness of the provisions of the current Constitution. Specifically:

 

― Political Reform: The Legislative Organ of State ought to be reviewed as a unit as this is how it is intended to function. Furthermore, due to the problematic manner in which the authority of the Legislature has been systematically usurped by the Executive a review of the manner in which these two organs of State function must take place. Specific attention must be paid to how the Oireachtas may be strengthened in order that it may fulfil its purpose as the sole legislating body of the state.

The reform of provisions such as Article 27 may be undertaken in order to enhance the authority of the members of the Oireachtas and the strick role of the Whip system

The national governmental and legislative systems rely heavily upon the system of Local Government in the State and therefore a review of those systems would be incomplete without a full appraisal and reform of the structures and functions of Local Government.

Embodied within a such comprehensive review of the entirety of the political system would lie an opportunity to assess the structural barriers which have thus far prevented the realisation of a critical mass of women within the political system.

― Marriage & the Family: It is recommended that a full and comprehensive review of the constitutional provisions on the family be conducted as a means of addressing a broad range of issues including but not limited to same sex marriage, children’s’ rights and the rights of their parents.

― Religious and Narrow Provisions: A full review the religious references and provisions widely considered to be of their time is the only means by which an Bunreacht can be reformed to become a more timeless and therefore consistent document.

― Fundamental Rights: A full review of the fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution must take place with a view to ensuring the human rights compliance of the Constitution given that it was enacted prior to the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the subsequent raft of Human Rights focused covenants and declarations ratified by the State over the past 75 years.

Specific attention must be paid to the commitments made by the State in its ratification of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

 

STRUCTURE AND MEMBERSHIP OF THE CONVENTION: It is proposed that the process of defining the structure and membership of the Convention be open to public scrutiny, transparent and subject to a limited process of public consultation. In refining its proposals the government must seek to establish the convention in line with international best practice by examining the experiences of other States who have conducted similar reviews of their Constitutional landscapes. Advice or input on the structure of the Convention may be sought from various international organisations such as the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. Specific areas to be addressed are:

― Membership: The membership of the Convention must be reconsidered to incorporate representation of civil society in the convention membership itself. The number of delegates may be something which requires further examination if a fully balanced and representative make-up is to be achieved.

― Appointments: All appointments made to the Expert Advisory Group and the Convention itself must be made in a transparent, fair and non-partisan fashion if the integrity of the Convention is to be maintained.

― Supports: Adequate supports must be made available to all members of the Convention, particularly those who do not possess the experience and knowledge base to fully participate from the beginning of the process. It is not adequate to determine the level of support needed after a detailed work programme is established and regard must be paid to the fact that capacity to participate is a key component of ensuring the equality of representation among demographic groupings contained within the Convention.

Furthermore, consideration must be given to the ability of Civil Society Groups and individuals to participate in the Convention if the time commitment and financial burden is too onerous on them. Socio-economic bias cannot be allowed to dictate what groups are enabled to participate.

 

IMPLEMENTATION OF RECOMMENDATIONS: A solid commitment must be made on the part of government to put the recommendations of the Convention into action following the completion of its final report. In the absence of such a commitment the Convention will lack credibility and has the potential to be a costly and meaningless endeavour which yields little if any results.

 

Constitutional Convention – Technical Group Proposals March 2012

 

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Posted by on March 8, 2012. Filed under Constitution,In the Dáil,Latest News,National Issues,Political & Public Service Reform,Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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