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Opinion: The Government's pretence about reform fell away at the first genuine challenge

The response to the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention on political reform reveals the truth about the Government’s attitude to democracy.

Oliver Moran

“THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT has served the State well since 1948.”

What arrangement, you might ask?

This was the Government’s response to the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention on political reform.

A very strange response. Particularly since it was the Government that asked the Convention to review the political system and make recommendations on reform. Why ask, if the current arrangements have served the State well?

And why 1948? What is the significance of that year? Surely, they don’t mean the year of the first Fine Gael-Labour coalition? The settled political classes would surely not be so blunt about their interest in keeping arrangements just as they are?

And thus it was, with little subtlety, that the pretence of a commitment to reform and democracy fell away at the first genuine challenge.

The Constitutional Convention was made up of 66 randomly-selected citizens and 33 politicians. It was tasked by the Government with reviewing and making recommendations on eight areas for reform. It ran from 2012 to 2014 and was a triumph of the reforming mood that swept the country in 2010 and 2011.

The Government had so far responded to four of its nine reports. And thus far, these had dealt with significant matters – such as lowering the voting age, the term of the President, the removal of the clause on blasphemy – but none that seriously challenged the interests of the political establishment.

That challenge would wait until the report on reform of the Dáil electoral system.

It was then that we heard that particular titbit:

“The current arrangement has served the State well since 1948.”

And let that be an end to that.

Like other initiatives of its kind internationally (known as citizen assemblies), the Constitutional Convention was notably reasoned and moderate in its recommendations. Review and recommend changes to the Dáil electoral system, it was asked. It could have recommended turning everything on its head.

But no – just one small change: each Dáil constituency should have a minimum of five seats.

“The current arrangement has served the State well since 1948.”

Little chance then for the more “radical” recommendations in the report, such as rights for citizens to call referendums or separating the Government from the Dáil. And what hope for the reports of the Convention to come, such as on reforming the Dáil itself or on constitutional provision for economic and social rights?

A time to separate

There comes a time in every relationship that has run its course that is a moment of realisation. In 2014, there were many causes for that and each of us will have our own. For me, finally, it was those words in the Government’s response on the last day of sitting of Dáil Éireann in 2014.

The response has left me thinking, we have tried to reform the State and its reply has been that the current arrangements have served it well. But if that is so – if the current arrangements have served the State well – then whose State is this?

Like lovers no longer in love, it is time we let loose our hands and walk our separate ways. The People moving forward, leaving this State and its hubris behind.

For some, in 2015, that will mean non-payment of charges. For others, it will mean a falling away from old political parties and old stalwarts. However it manifests itself, we have outgrown what this State will provide. Our contract with it is broken.

In 2015, let us walk into the unknown.

For it will be ours.

Oliver Moran is a 36-year-old software engineer from Cork. He is a founder of Second Republic, a non-aligned campaign group for political reform set up in 2010. Second Republic lobbied for the establishment of the Constitutional Convention as a means for citizen-driven reform.

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Oliver Moran

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