Hi and you’re very welcome to The College View’s liveblog of the fourth public meeting of the Constitutional Convention. Finnian Curran, Eimear Phelan and Sarah Bermingham here to give you a blow-by-blow account of the nights proceedings.
19:30 John Logue of the school of humanities kicks off the meeting by introducing the audience to DCU and stating how much of a benefit it is to the young university to host the event.
19:38 Tom Arnold, chair of the convention, states what the purpose of the convention is and how it functions. He reiterates the fact that it’s a public forum consisting of members of the Northern Ireland Assembly, members of the Oiraechtas and lay people. He says that they had to talk about eight different issues including; Lowering the voting age, the length of the presidential term, the position of the mother in the home, how to increase the role of woman is political life, same-sex marriage and whether the constitution should be amended to allow for same-sex marriage,Electoral reform, including whether Proportional Representation is efficient at the current time. They also discussed whether Irish citizens who live outside the state should be allowed to vote and whether blasphemy should be deleted from the Constitution.
19:45 There’s around 60 people here tonight including DCU SU Vice President for Welfare Ciaran O’ Connor and Labour T.D John Lyons.
19:48 Arnold points out how there’s seven topics up for discussion tonight including; The Enviroment, Economic, social and cultural rights, Church and State, Political and Institutional reform, The family/morality and the Bill of Rights.
19:52 Chair of DCU’s Student Council, Ronán o Dálaigh points out how in Bolivia they’ve afforded the same rights to mother nature as they have for human beings.
19:55 Member of the audience Robert Gorman, DCU lecture and Green Party member, states that there is very little enviromental protection in the Constitution and states that we’re hugely out of step with Europe. He thinks it’s absolutely essential that we at least have a debate regarding the environment.
20:00 John McCormack, member of the public, states how German industries were developed enough in the 90’s to clean up the Rhine and that Ireland should follow suite for taking care of our environment.
20:04 We now move onto the issue of Economic, social and cultural rights. Arnold points out that there were a huge amount of submissions regarding this topic.
20:05 Declan Coone, member of Amnesty International and the United Left Alliance states that if you don’t carry out basic human rights, there’s no point in fulfilling political rights.
20:12 Donal O’ Broin, member of the audience, states that there is a right to free primary education in the constitutiom but that doesn’t necessary mean that you’ve to fulfill that right. Arnold states that there’s no point including rights in the constitution if you don’t, as a government and society, fulfill and carry out that right.
20:14 The Irish Sign Language has been brought up with a number of attendees stating how it’s been in existence for over 200 years and we should reiterate and enforce the education of the Irish Sign Language.
20:18 A member of the audience has brought up how the 1937 Bunreacht na hÉireann is the foundation of the state and how it’s the framework for the country. He states that we should work within the framework that we have now.
20:20 A member of Irish Republican Brotherhood states that the final vote regarding the constitution should be a 32 county vote.
20:22 We now move onto the topic of Church and State. This is expected to be a heated debate with a number of attendees expressing interest in speaking.
20:25 The topic of secular schools in the state is brought up by an attendee and he insists that secular schools should be the staple of our education system as Catholic schools are influencing the minds of many young people.
20:26 The College View’s Sean Cassidy brings up the topic of religious influences in the constitution and the offices of the Oireachtas and how heads of office in the Oireachtas have to take an Oath to God. If they refuse, it would cause a constitutional crisis and he thinks the convention should look at and change this.
20:30 Jane Donelly, member of the audience, talks about how the UN Human Right’s committee is advocating to remove oaths and she asks Arnold whether the government has asked the Convention to discuss the removal of oaths from the constitution.
20:35 Tom Hickey of the school of Law and Government says “I don’t think the constitution is the problem and I don’t think the constitution is the solution” and states that according to the constitution, the government is held accountable to Dáil Eireann, which it hasn’t been in recent years.
20:38 DCU President Brian McCraith has just arrived at the convention.
20:40 Donal O’ Broin is speaking again and thanks the members of the convention for all of their hard work over the past 12 months. He states how our current electoral system is one that “checks and balances correctly” and that it shouldn’t be changed.
20:45 Paul Clarke, local Independent, brings up the topic of Direct Democracy. There are a number of leaflets distributed by him across the hall regarding whether direct democracy (i.e. Citizen’s Initiatives) with adequate safeguards be introduced.
20:46 Cian O’ Mara, member of the Green Party, asks that members of the Oireachtas be given access to independent and legal advice so that they can have an informed debate. He also brings up the issue that most people are thinking here tonight. He asks how are the government going to entice the public to vote for these recommendations when a referendum takes place when there’s such a low turnout for recent referenda.
20:50 Labour T.D John Lyons speaks to the audience and explains how every meeting of the convention takes place and asks that anybody who doesn’t understand the function of the convention to come to him and get some clarity on the issue. He says that the process of engagement is transparent and essential when it comes to doing business at the convention. “As somebody who is a politician, I take the view that the position I take at the moment, is time bound.”
He states that it’s very difficult for the general public can’t really understand what it’s like to work as a T.D. and that every member is providing a public service.
20:55 Keep up to date with the convention by following us on twitter @thecollegeview
21:00 A private member of the public, who states that he has no political affiliation, is advocating that the convention looks at limiting the term of office, similar to the presidential term, of members of the Oireachtas and other public officials.He suggests that three terms would be an optimum number. He argues that T.D’s who do not fulfill their public obligation should not be payed fully.
21:02 We now move swiftly long to our penultimate issue of the night; The family/morality. Members of the convention has stated that when addressing the issue, include the right of pregnant women to decide what to do with their body and has also brought up the topic of Euthanasia.
21:06 Karen Kiernan, working for One Family, which takes care of single parents family, states that they are concerned at the fact that the constitution only takes care of marital families and points out that Ireland is very different in those terms than it was in 1937. She states that her organisation has reflected on whether all families should be protected by the constitution and she has referred to article 8 of the E.U Constitution. She’s offered One Family’s help to members of the convention when discussing these topics.
21:10 Nicholas Johnson, member of the public, asks the question “who decides what morality is?” Religious organisations have determined what morals are and he recommends that the word “morality” be removed from the constitution.”You don’t need the word morality at all. The government should worry about what is legal and illegal and what is ethical and not ethical.”
21:12 Arnold points out that we’re on a time limit and will be finished up by 9:30. It’s looking quite unlikely and we still have to discuss the Bill of Rights.
21:16 Neville Keery, part of electionsireland.org, has brought up how the word “right” is taken too casually in today’s society and points out that we should focus on the original constitution on 1937 in this regard. He states that it is of utmost importance that the convention get the wording correct. “I’m here this evening cos I wanted to see with my own eyes how the convention is working. I am somewhat encouraged”
21:23 Jane Donnelly, Athiest Ireland, brings up how there is not enough protection in the constitution regarding education. She states that there is not enough human rights protection regarding this matter. She also states that “you don’t have equality if you’re secular in Irish society.”
21:26 Paula Sheridan, member of the convention and former DCU student, says that everybody’s concerns and opinion on the panel has been addressed and she’s encouraged by the number of students attending the event tonight.
21:28 Another member of the public recommends that the subject of treason in the constitution be extended to economic treason.
21:30 Digital freedom and protection is currently being highlighted at the moment and Declan McCoole thinks that the convention should address this. He thinks that the reason why we have apathy is because the government is centralised. He reiterates an earlier view that all citizens should be allowed to vote when it comes to Seanad elections.
21:32 Gary Murphy, school of law and government here in DCU thinks that referenda should be implemented as soon as possible.
21:33 Ronan O’ Dalaigh states that today’s meeting should have been held in the Helix as there’s 90,000 people in Dublin 9 alone and there should be at least 1,000 people here.
21:35 Our own Eimear Phelan has brought up the fact that there’s been no communication towards student regarding the convention in DCU tonight.
21:37 Brian McCraith is now closing the event. He says that DCU is proud and delighted to host the event tonight and says that it’s a pity that no students received an email regarding tonights event. He thinks that the convention is a very rich experience and commends the members of the convention for being involved.
21:39 And that’s a wrap for tonight, folks. Chairperson, Tom Arnold, thanks Jane Suiter and Eoghan O’Malley for helping to organise the event. The next meeting of the convention will take place in the Royal Irish Academy on Wednesday November 13th.