REPORTS THAT DRAFT proposals for the establishment of the Constitutional Convention are to be finalised shortly have been welcomed with caution by various civil rights groups.
According to RTÉ, the Cabinet met last night to discuss setting up the convention and details of its makeup will be eked out after consultation with Opposition parties.
In the Programme for Government, the coalition said it would set up the convention to examine possible changes to the constitution.
It will consider comprehensive constitutional reform in variety of areas, including the Dáil’s electoral system and the possibility of reducing the presidential term to five years.
Other issues to be tabled include aligning elections, amending the clause on women in the home and encouraging greater participation of women in public life.
It is understood that the convention will have 100 members, made up of 66 citizens, 33 political representatives and a chairperson.
Within 12 months, the Government said it will also produce a report on the possibilities of removing blasphemy from the constitution, reducing the voting age and any other relevant constitutional amendments that may be recommended by the convention.
The provision for same-sex marriage is also a key item to be reviewed and reported on.
Welcoming reports of the draft proposals today, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the review body should not be “cooked up behind closed doors”.
The independent human rights watchdog urged the Government to consult widely on the proposed architecture of the convention.
ICCL director Mark Kelly said, “Changing the constitution should never be done lightly, so it is essential that there be proper consultation about the makeup of the new constitutional conventions.”
As the convention will consider the provision of marriage equality for same-sex couples, the reports of imminent draft proposals were also welcomed by organisations supporting gay and lesbian unions.
Marriage Equality’s Moninne Griffth said the group will “fully engage” with the process. However, she asked for members to take steps to ensure that the voices of those affected by the marriage ban are heard.
GLEN also welcomed the announcement that the “agreement in principle” had been made at Cabinet level. The equality network said the convention provides a “critical opportunity” to build on the progress achieved with the civil partnership bill last year.
“GLEN’s goal, and that of lesbian and gay people, is access to civil marriage which, according to the Colley Report is the only option that would achieve equality of status with opposite-sex couples and which would underpin a wider equality for lesbian and gay people,” said group chair Kieran Rose.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has called on the Taoiseach to ensure full consultation with Opposition parties.
“If this Government is serious about the business of reform it needs to get the constitutional convention up and running,” said the party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.
She also asked Enda Kenny to confirm his commitment that the constitutional convention will consider the issue of voting rights, including those of Irish citizens in the north for presidential elections.
Much has changed in Ireland since 1937, and changed absolutely. It is in this context that we believe the convention must also consider an entirely new constitution.