We may have overdone it on citizens’ assemblies

Article by David Farrell: “Ireland has citizens’ assemblies aplenty. A few weeks ago the Cabinet gave the green light for two new citizens’ assemblies on biodiversity and a Dublin mayor. This immediately prompted a debate in the Oireachtas over why the Dublin mayor citizens’ assembly is being prioritised over one on drugs use that was promised in the Programme for Government, along with citizens’ assemblies on rural youth and the future of education. Almost every day there are groups calling for still more citizens’ assemblies: the recent list includes such topics as a united Ireland, the funding of our armed forces, and a new forest strategy.

This all comes hot on the heels of three previous assemblies since 2012, the most recent of which, the Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality, completed its work last year and, after some delay, its well-considered report is about to be considered by a special Oireachtas committee, chaired by Ivana Bacik.

It’s no wonder that Ireland is seen as a leading light in the world of citizens’ assemblies: they have made important contributions on issues like abortion and gay marriage. But these high-profile successes disguise the fact that many, many other recommendations from previous assemblies have been ignored, rejected, or left to gather dust: that’s a lot of time and effort (not least by citizens’ assembly members) and public funding wasted for rather little return…(More)”.