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Changing the Irish Constitution

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As indicated in my posting Your Country Your Call, I submitted an idea entitled New Republic - New Constitution proposing that a Citizens' Assembly be established to help prepare a new Constitution to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. You can vote for my entry here.

In this posting, I elaborate on the proposal by suggesting some possible changes to the 1937 Constitution, I cannot be too specific as I don't have all the answers and don't even know all the right questions!  Purposefully, I have steered clear of some potentially controversial issues like the status of Irish, religion and the family. Constitutional law can be very technical and it would be important to consult widely via the proposed Citizens' Assembly and to secure the help of experts and other interested parties.

You can view the Constitution or buy a copy in bookshops for under €3. Relevant material on the Internet includes the following:

Of course, the political parties have their own views on possible constitutional changes as do many representative and special interest groups.

Here are my thoughts to get the ball rolling:

  • Replace all references to he by he/she and his by his/her.
  • On the Presidency in Article 12, reduce the term of office from seven years; reduce the eligibility age and broaden the nomination procedure.
  • Change the requirement (Article 13 Clauses 7.3 & 11) for Governmental approval of every presidential message or address by requiring prior consultation with the Council of State as is the case for communicating with the Oireachtas.
  • Extend Article 16 Clause 1 to give the vote in presidential and Dail elections to first-generation emigrants and reduce the minimum voting age. In Clause 2, increase the ratio of Dail members to population and consider moving away from the PR-STV system and multi-seat constituencies. 
  • Article 18 relating to the Seanad should be reviewed with a view to either (a) changing its composition, election procedures and/or role or (b) abolishing it.
  • Article 27 about referring bills to the people should be modified so as to better facilitate its use and extended to embrace Citizens' Initiatives on national issues to complement plans for an EU-wide scheme proposed in the Lisbon Treaty.
  • Article 28 Clause 4 about budgeting should be extended to place maximum limits on State borrowing and deficits.
  • Article 28 Clause 7 should be modified to allow some citizens who are not members of the Dail or Seanad to be appointed to the Government.
  • Article 28 Clause 11.2 should restrict the activities of the Government following dissolution of the Dail and/or require that certain actions, e.g. appointments, be confirmed by the incoming Government.
  • Article 28A Clause 1 regarding local government should be strengthened to facilitate greater regionalisation, local democracy and vocational activity.
  • Article 33 Clause 1 should extend the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General to assess proposals for major expenditures by the State.
  • Article 35 Clause 5 should be modified to allow the remuneration of judges to be reduced.
  • Article 37 Clause 1 might be extended to give some judicial powers to Oireachtas-based enquiries into matters of national importance.
  • Article 40 Clause 2 about conferring titles of nobility might be reviewed.
  • Article 43 regarding private property might be modified to take account of the impact of the granting of State licences and approvals on private ownership.
  • The role of the Constitution in Article 45 should be strengthened, Clause 2 might extended to provide for "cherishing all the children of the nation equally" and Clause 4 regarding weaker sections of the community might be sharpened.

It might be desirable to extend the Constitution to include general guidelines on the need to take account of prevailing economic circumstances when setting the remuneration and pensions of officials specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

Over the years, I have compiled a list of possible changes to the operation of the Dail. They are mainly operational changes but it is likely that some items like Freedom of Information and Data Protection should be referenced in a new Constitution.

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While I agree with the need for a new Republic, your suggested constitutional amendments hardly amount to more than a tidying up exercise on the existing mess.

A new constitutional order is required that values merit over privilege, that reduces the overwhelming protection of private property, that removes the privelege of the Catholic church and that reduces the size of the Dail and seriously changes the way it operates, increasing the influence of committees, removin multi-seat constituencies and changing the way the president is elected. The role of president is currently an inhouse award in the gift of politicians.

Other required changes go far beyond the constitution and go to changing the very nature of the partisan way that political power is managed in the state.

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This page contains a single entry by Brian published on April 25, 2010 5:30 PM.

Your Country Your Call was the previous entry in this blog.

Nama and the Banking Crisis is the next entry in this blog.

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