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Dublin: 5 °C Wednesday 19 December, 2018
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Constitutional Convention aims to begin discussions next month

132 members of the public have been identified to participate – 66 of whom will be direct substitutes for the others.

Dublin Castle - seen here during the Global Irish Economic Forum - is set to house the first meeting of the Constitutional Convention next month.
Dublin Castle - seen here during the Global Irish Economic Forum - is set to house the first meeting of the Constitutional Convention next month.
Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive

THE LONG-AWAITED Constitutional Convention is set to begin next month, after 132 members of the public were identified to participate in the unprecedented public attempt at overhauling Ireland’s constitution.

A polling company has identified 66 members of the public who together make up a representative sample of the Irish public, with a further 66 people identified as direct substitutes for the original nominees in case they become unavailable.

The 66 members, who were notified of their selection and have agreed to participate, will be formally appointed to the Convention by its chair – who is due to be named shortly – at a ceremonial first sitting at Dublin Castle.

The convention’s final sittings may not all be held in Dublin, however, with dozen of hotels from across the country responding to a tender asking interested parties to register their interested in hosting the events and putting up the participants.

Irrespective of this, all events are to be webcast at www.constitution.ie – a website previously used by an all-party Oireachtas group reporting on potential changes, and which is to be re-purposed for the convention.

TheJournal.ie understands that strenuous efforts have been made to ensure that the demographic make-up of the group reflects that of the country at large: a fixed number of members will be drawn from each age group, which will in turn carry a representative sample of the sexes and of residents from the various regions of Ireland.

One-to-one ‘shadow’

It is intended that each member will have a one-to-one ‘shadow’ who will fill in for them whenever they may be unavailable, so that this demographic balance is maintained throughout the convention’s sittings.

The chairman, and the remaining 33 members to be drawn from political parties on both sides of the border, will make up the full 100-strong membership. It will likely be up to the chair to decide on the venue for each meeting, and to draw up a proposed timetable for each.

It is intended that the convention will sit for eight weekends over the next year, to discuss matters including reducing the voting age to 17, allowing same-sex marriage, reforming the Dáil electoral system and giving Irish citizens abroad the right to vote in presidential elections.

The convention will also consider whether to amend the clause referring to the role of women in the home, and how to encourage female participation in politics and public life.

Under the terms of a Dáil agreement from July, the convention will report on its findings on lowering the voting age, and reducing the Presidential term of office, within two months of its first sitting – meaning that if the intended timetable reaches fruition, a report could be issued before Christmas.

The remainder of the topics – as well as any other amendments of its choosing, if the convention has enough time to cover them – are to be agreed and reported on within a year of its first sitting.

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Gavan Reilly

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