Sinn Fein’s human rights agenda for the Republic’s constitutional convention…

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.

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  • London_Irish

    “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.”

    The word ‘ambiguity’ is an understatement, this could mean absolutely anything. The first thing that springs to mind is that Sinn Féin would ideally like there to be no need for a referendum for unity in the south (fearing the result, sadly), and a pro-unity vote in the north would be enough in itself to trigger a UI in the constitution. I can’t see this happening though, as the fuss it would cause in the north as being a stealth reintroduction of Articles 2&3 will have the McGimpseys amongst others up in arms.

    “the extension of voting rights for northern citizens and citizens in the diaspora”

    This is an issue which was really brought to the fore at the last general election, given the high levels of emigration. I can’t see Fine Gael in particular (Fianna Fáil too though) wanting to genuinely extend the voting franchise so significantly into an area where they have no base, and where it will be to the direct advantage of their political opponents. It saddens me to say, but I believe that an Irishman in south London will be voting for the Áras before one in south Armagh.

    “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”

    This is an important point. Will a new draft referendum be put to the people in an all-or-nothing vote as in 1937? Surely if any significant changes are made to Bunreacht na hÉireann it will be far too expensive/time consuming to vote on article amendments one by one? What happens if a new constitution is rejected? Will it be redrafted or will the government seek to implement the main changes through individual referenda? Sinn Féin have got this point right, if this isn’t decided beforehand, we could see a debate unfold not too dismilar to the one in Scotland at the moment, re does a 51% vote for independence trump a 99% vote for devo-max?

  • Freaked-out-Unionist

    but I believe that an Irishman in south London
    will be voting for the Áras before one in south Armagh.

    Yes, if the English demand “Home Rule ”
    that’s it, the Union is finished. ..

    No more red/white/blue kerbstones

    Frank Carson erected at Stormont in place of
    Edward Carson , oh yeah that’d be shinner humour alright

    Only Alex Kane can save us now prevent and the inevitable slippage

  • SethS

    “the extension of voting rights for northern citizens and citizens in the diaspora”

    The other danger of this of course a total warping of democracy when you end up with more voters outside the country than in it.

  • London_Irish

    SethS,

    Yes and no. I understand your point and its a very valid one, but I suspect that by the time the government are finished with such a provision, plans for a vote to the diaspora won’t be for a catch all granny-rule one, but rather a vote for the lad from Galway who moved to Australia for a bit of work, which of course would mean a much narrower definition of “diaspora”.