The Taoiseach is tonight to brief other party and group leaders in the Dail on the long promised constitutional convention; a review of the Republic’s ropey governance system. In fact not everything that needs fixing need bother the Supreme Court. Sinn Fein have been relatively quick out of the blocks to share their agenda, although it is remarkably short on taking a position on any of the matters the government has already set out.
According to their presser, the convention must:
• Acknowledge and take account of the relevant prior commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.
• It should be able to consider recommending a new constitution for the 21st century which is inclusive, reflects the desire for Irish unity that is shared by the majority of citizens on this island and which protects the rights of citizens, including our unionist neighbours.
• The Convention’s Terms of Reference must also ensure that the outcome does not prejudice any future process of agreeing an all-Ireland constitution – post a referendum on unity as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
• It should involve the economically disadvantaged, citizens from all provinces including northern citizens; ordinary unionists and their official representatives; citizens in the diaspora; and our newest citizens – in addition to the political parties, civil society representatives and those with relevant academic and legal expertise – and ensuring the equal representation of women on the Convention.
• The Convention’s process must also be fully public, transparent and accountable, from discussion of terms of reference to appointments, and from the debates to conclusion of recommendations.
• There must be clarity in the Terms of Reference about the conventions final report and how it is put to the people in a referendum.
• It must be able to examine the need for guarantees of economic and social rights, the extension of voting rights for northern citizens and citizens in the diaspora, and the architecture necessary to establish a more robustly inclusive, fully representative and accountable democracy.
• It must contain all the modern equality and human rights protections that reflect the full spectrum of our international obligations and any others that are necessary to establish a rights-based society.
• Including the equivalence of human rights protections north and south.
• The Convention must in its work consider and make a complementary contribution towards an All-Ireland Charter of Rights.