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New political initiative plans citizens’ assembly to ‘renew democracy’

‘We the Citizens’ will hold seven regional meetings ahead of a national event aimed at restoring trust in public life.

A NEW POLITICAL initiative being launched today plans to hold a national citizens’ assembly later this year, as the culmination of a programme aimed at restoring public trust in public life.

‘We the Citizens’, which aims to show how Irish society could benefit by bringing citizens together in “new forms of public decision-making”, is an independent project aimed at trying to renew democracy in the wake of an election in which political reform was a major talking point.

The centrepiece of the programme, a national citizens’ assembly to be held in June, will have its agenda decided by seven regional events being held around the country, while a nationwide poll will also be carried out to decide its talking points.

Abbey Theatre director Fiach Mac Conghail, who is acting as the initiative’s chairman, said the project would adopt a two-fold programme, promising to “show that a bottom-up approach can support a better and more productive citizen engagement” while also pledging to “maintain the pressure on our politicians to change the way we are governed”.

While We the Citizens would be organising the seven local events taking place in advance of the national meeting – being held in Kilkenny, Cork, Galway, Letterkenny, Athlone and Dublin – the initiative is not setting their agenda, instead hoping that attendees themselves would take that role.

A panel of academics led by UCD professor David Farrell will carry out an academic study of the process and its outcomes, while the project is being steered by a board made up of people “who have distinguished themselves as Irish citizens” who were giving their time and expertise on a pro bono basis.

The initiative is being organised in conjunction with the Irish Universities Association and is funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, founded by Irish-American philanthropist billionaire Chuck Feeney.

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