The Constitutional Convention
The Convention on the Constitution was established by Resolutions of the Houses of the Oireachtas to consider a number of changes to the Constitution of Ireland. The Convention initially discussed and made recommendations on:
- Reducing the Presidential term of office to 5 years (from 7 at present) and aligning it with the local and European elections
- Reducing the voting age to 17 (18 at present)
The Convention was required to report on these first 2 issues within 2 months of its first public hearing.
It then proceeded to discuss and report on the following issues:
- Review of the Dáil electoral system
- Giving Irish citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections at Irish embassies, or otherwise
- Provision for same-sex marriage
- Amending the clause on the role of women in the home and encouraging greater participation of women in public life
- Increasing the participation of women in politics
- Removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution
Following completion of the above reports, it also discussed and made recommendations on two additional issues:
- Dail reform
- Economic, social and cultural rights.
It published its final report on 31 March 2014. The Government undertook to respond to each report within 4 months.
The inaugural meeting took place in Dublin Castle on 1 December 2012. Plenary convention meetings commenced in January 2013 and ran throughout the year, on average once a month excluding July and August 2013.
There were 100 participants in the Convention. A chairman was appointed by the Government. There were 66 citizens, randomly selected and as representative as possible of Irish society. They had to be people who were entitled to vote in a referendum. A polling company was engaged to select 66 people from the electoral register who were representative of the population generally in terms of sex, age, social class and region. A number of substitute or shadow members were also identified to take part and replace Convention members in the event that they were unable to attend.
The other members were members of the Dáil and Seanad and a representative of each political party in the Northern Ireland Assembly that wished to be represented. The political representatives were able to substitute another parliamentary party member if they were unable to attend.
The Convention had an expert advisory group of academics, political scientists and constitutional lawyers.
Use of the electoral register
The Constitutional Convention was set up by means of a resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas and not by statute. The Electoral (Amendment) Act 2012 (pdf) enabled the electoral register to be used to select the 66 citizen members of the Convention.
Whilst the Electoral Acts provide that it is an offence to use information in the register other than for electoral or other statutory purposes (such as selection of members of juries), there is an edited version of the register that may be used for any purpose. That register includes about 300,000 voters who have agreed to have their names included on it.
Information on the Convention and its work is available at constitution.ie.