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Constitutional Convention a lost opportunity – Adams

10 July, 2012 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams this evening moved a Sinn Féin amendment to the Government’s resolution on the Constitutional Convention.

The Sinn Féin leader described the government’s proposal as “a lost opportunity which falls far short of the commitments made by the two parties in the general election campaign.”

Teachta Adams said:

“We had hoped that the constitutional convention would see the emergence of a new constitutional arrangement to meet the needs of 21st century Ireland. The economic crisis in this state, the revelations of corruption around some of the political parties here, the findings of tribunals against leaders of Fianna Fáil in particular, allied to the success of the peace process in the north means that Ireland is in transition.

“Citizens want change. This constitutional convention is an opportunity for the government to build a truly national consensus for fundamental change and to transform the existing constitutional architecture to take account of the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is an opportunity to actually agree a new constitutional design, to reimagine Ireland, in this new century. And to put in place a constitution that has all the citizens of this nation, of this island, at its heart. A constitution that delivers on the promise of the 1916 Proclamation.

“Instead we have a proposal that limits the remit of the constitutional convention. It fails to deliver a comprehensive transparent process. Unless its remit is amended it will deliver minimum change.”

The Louth TD accused the government of adopting an approach to constitutional change that is “minimalist, disjointed and piecemeal. This approach fails the mandate given to this government, fails the process of constitutional change and fails the people.”

The Sinn Féin President set out Sinn Féin’s view of what is needed:

“Our amendment proposes a convention that is fully inclusive in composition and uses a participatory process, actively involving in particular: the economically disadvantaged; the socially marginalised; citizens from all provinces including the northern province of Ulster; unionists and their official representatives; citizens in the diaspora; ethnic minorities like the travelling community and our newest citizens – in addition to the political parties, civil society representatives, including the voluntary and community sector and those with relevant academic and legal expertise – and ensuring also the equal representation of women on the Convention.

“Sinn Féin believes that the convention’s process must be fully public, transparent and accountable, from discussion of terms of reference to appointments, and from the debates to conclusion of recommendations. 

“The Convention must also have the mandate to consider the broadest possible scope of matters, including in particular the need to express 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 with mechanisms for direct participation.

“The government has proposed that the convention must address a specified list of issues before moving on to other matters.

“The resolution is silent on what happens to the convention at the end of that year and in the context of all issues not having been addressed.

“The amending of the constitution on an issue by issue basis has the potential to make the process of amending the constitution and the work of the convention enormously difficult and confusing.

“There is a possibility of series of separate referendums and even amendments to amendments depending on the timing of recommendations and government considerations.

“Sinn Féin believes that the convention should have the freedom and time to produce a comprehensive proposal.

“It took the architects of Bunreacht na hÉireann two years to complete their work. It should not be beyond our ability to produce a comprehensive set of proposals that could be completed and passed by 2016. A truly new constitution fit for purpose for the new Ireland of tomorrow.  A constitution that embraces our unionist neighbours, guarantees economic and social rights for all citizens, and maximises human rights guarantees, including all of 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.”

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