Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Irish Constitutional Convention set to become a Hall of Mirrors

Both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in their article in The Irish Times on 11 July advise that the Constitutional Convention is to be the vanguard of profound social reform.

The challenges of the 21st century they believe need to be met include curtailing the presidential term of office from seven to five years and giving citizens resident outside the State the right to vote at embassies overseas.

The length of the presidential term was not an impediment to the distinguished and illustrious transformative presidencies of Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. The experience of the most recent presidential election highlighted concerns about the availability of a sufficient number of candidates with adequately compelling credentials to become President; whether they fully understood what the function of Head of State is and who could persuade the electorate that the presidential office would conducted with dignity, distinction and honour during their tenure.

The prospect of those outside the country being granted a vote begs the question of whether those who do not pay tax should have the privilege of voting. Perhaps the Convention may consider that there is some legitimacy between the presence of a tax evader in the membership of the Oireachtas making the laws of the nation and a constitutional entitlement for the wider Diaspora to determine who should be Head of State.

Another topic for the Convention is to be the greater participation of women in public life. If this is the urgent priority with the stature the political parties would like to convince us us it has, why did they only spend €76,896 of the €4,805,258 of taxpayers’ money granted to them in 2011 on the participation of women in public life? Surely some solid background effort on the ground is necessary before the electorate are asked to embrace profound social and institutional reform.

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