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Seven people who took part in the last Citizens' Assembly weren't recruited properly

The majority view on four questions cannot be determined as a result.

File photo of people at the Citizens' Assembly.
File photo of people at the Citizens' Assembly.
Image: Maxwells

A TOTAL OF seven people who took part in the last meeting of the Citizens’ Assembly were improperly recruited and shouldn’t have been there.

The Citizens’ Assembly confirmed that seven of the 99 citizens present at a meeting on 13 and 14 January had been recruited improperly by Red C Research and Marketing.

The meeting in question was titled “Manner in which Referenda are held” and concerned different aspect of the holding of referendums in Ireland.

As a result of the seven people not being recruited properly, the majority view cannot be determined on the four questions asked at that meeting of the Assembly.

In statements from both the Citizens’ Assembly and Red C, the fault was placed on one specific Red C recruiter.

Both bodies said that after an extensive internal audit it was determined that the issue was isolated to January’s Assembly meeting and that past meetings were not affected.

Improper methodology 

There is a strict methodology in place for recruiting people for the Citizens’ Assembly – which convenes so that ordinary citizens may deliberate on important topics put forward by consideration by the Oireachtas.

Under this legal framework, Red C interviewers had to recruit participants by cold calling door-to-door to households in the allocated geographic area which is issued to them by Red C. No other method of recruitment was agreed.

The seven individuals in question were contacted by phone in December of last year. They were identified by potential members through friends and family of a single recruiter.

All seven individuals were recruited by the same recruiter.

They have each now been informed by the Assembly Secretariat that they can play no further part in the Assembly going forward.

Red C apologised unreservedly for the incident.

“The incident involved one employee acting – without permission – outside of the strict guidelines and protocols set out for this project,” Red C said in a statement.

Red C is satisfied that this was an isolated incident, and fully stands over the integrity of its work for the Citizens’ Assembly prior to this isolated incident.

“Disappointed”

Chair of the Assembly, retired judge Mary Laffoy, said that she was “obviously disappointed” in what had happened.

“I want to assure the public in the clearest possible terms, that I am satisfied that this is an isolated incident, and that it has no impact on the work of the Assembly on previous topics,” she said.

While this incident is regrettable, I believe that the actions which we have taken and will take to address the situation, ensure that the robustness of our work and the transparency and openness in which it has been conducted, can be maintained.

Laffoy said that majority view now on the four questions cannot be determined, and she will include a full account of what happened in her report to the Oireachtas.

The Assembly will not hold the meeting again as a result of the incident.

The four questions and the results voted by the Assembly were:

Question 7: In the event of more than one referendum at the same time, the Assembly voted that the maximum number should be no more than two (41.7%);

Question 8b: 52% voted in favour that when there are more than two options on the ballot paper in a constitutional referendum the outcome should be decided by PR STV;

Question 10a: In 10a the Assembly voted in favour of early voting in the weeks before the poll.

Question 10b: In 10b the Assembly voted in favour of extended voting over a number of days (51%)

Read: Citizens’ Assembly recommends a permanent electoral commission, equal funding and weekend voting

Read: Atheist Ireland calls for bibles to be removed from referendum polling stations

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About the author:

Cormac Fitzgerald

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