“Time to set aside Citizens’ Assemblies as costs exceed €4.6 million.” Carol Nolan

The Department of the Taoiseach has confirmed that an allocation of €502,000 has been provided in respect of both Citizens’ Assemblies planned for 2022.

The Assemblies will examine issues relating to biodiversity as well as a directly elected mayor and local government structures best suited for Dublin.

Additional funding requirements, if necessary, will be provided from within existing resources allocated to the Department of the Taoiseach’s Vote 2022.

The information was released to Independent TD for Laois Offaly Carol Nolan in response to parliamentary questions she had placed on the matter.

The responses also revealed that the total cost of the Citizens’ Assemblies that have taken place from 2014-2021 is €4.1million.

The expenditure incurred by the Department of the Taoiseach on each of the Citizens’ Assemblies is as follows:

Year      Expenditure

2014     €327,000

2015     Nil

2016     €274,000

2017     €1,535,000

2018     €534,000

2019     €201,000

2020     €732,000

2021     €594,000

During this period two Citizens’ Assemblies and one Convention on the Constitution took place. Matters considered by the 2013-2014 Convention on the Constitution were:

  • Reducing the voting age and Presidential term
  • The role of women in Politics
  • Same sex marriage
  • Electoral reform
  • Blasphemy
  • Granting citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in Presidential elections; Dáil Reform; Economic, Social and Cultural rights.

The 2016-2018 Citizens’ Assembly considered the following matters:

  • The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution
  • How best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an aging population
  • Fixed term parliaments
  • The manner in which referenda are held
  • How the state can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change

The 2020-2021 Citizens’ Assembly considered Gender Equality.

Commenting on the information provided to her, Deputy Nolan said, “I have significant reservations about the democratic value, role and place of Citizens’ Assemblies.”

“While they have a veneer of democratic legitimacy and democratic participation, in reality they are very far from being truly representative of where the general population is on a whole range of issues.”

“Why have we never had an Assembly on reform of the health service, the systemic crisis in housing, the exponential rise in anti-social behaviour, regional economic imbalance or a robust but fair immigration system, rampant drug use and the absence of services to address that issue? Why is it almost always the kind of topics generally beloved of the NGO and academic class?”

“I also question why Government is throwing hundreds of thousands of euros at the biodiversity Assembly when we have just had a lengthy Assembly process on the challenges inherent in climate change and when we have an entire Climate Advisory Panel that was specifically set up to look at these issues in the round”

“I think the time has come to consider phasing out the Citizen Assembly model,” concluded Deputy Nolan.

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