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The Citizens' Assembly meets for the first time today, here's how it's going to work

The exact format is still to be decided.

Dublin Castle is the venue for the first meeting of the Assembly. (File photo)
Dublin Castle is the venue for the first meeting of the Assembly. (File photo)
Image: Niall Carson

THE CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY is to meet for the first time today but there’ll be no discussion on the issues for six weeks at the earliest.

The process of selecting the 99 member committee has concluded and the members will meet for the first time at Dublin Castle today.

They’ll hear an introductory address from Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other speakers before the meeting enters private session where they will discuss the work programme and procedures of the Assembly.

It’s envisaged that the exact format of Assembly will be developed by members themselves as part of an effort to ensure that it is citizen-led.

One of their tasks will be to select a steering group that will be made up entirely of members.

Among the jobs of this steering group will be to approve the expert panels that will speak when the five separate issues are discussed over the 10 weekends of the Citizens’ Assembly.

Nominees for these expert groups will come in part from chairperson Ms Justice Mary Laffoy but also from submissions from interested representative groups.

The Citizens’ Assembly was established under the Department of An Taoiseach and it’s promised that these panels will:

reflect different views on the issues to be considered by the assembly in a balanced way.

The Assembly has been tasked with looking at five separate issues with Ireland’s abortion laws the first to be discussed. In order of priority, the five issues the Assembly will look at are:

  • the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
  • how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population.
  • fixed term parliaments.
  • the manner in which referenda are held.
  • how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.

Despite being the first of the five issues to be discussed, discussion on the Eighth Amendment will not begin until the next weekend meeting of the Assembly on 25 November in the Grand Hotel in Malahide.

Thereafter, discussion will continue on the issue over a number of meetings until it’s deemed to be concluded.

Each weekend of the Assembly runs for Saturday and half of Sunday on members are paid expenses for their travel and if they have to stay over in Dublin.

The Assembly has said that a and recommendation and report on the Eighth Amendment will be submitted to the Oireachtas in the first half of 2017.

Proceeedings will be streamed on citizensassembly.ie

Read: New poll shows the vast majority of Irish people want Eighth Amendment repealed >

Read: ‘Any politician that says repealing the Eighth doesn’t come up on the doorsteps is living in cloud cuckoo land’ >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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