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Adams calls for ‘meaningful consultation and broadest possible terms of reference for Constitutional Convention’

27 February, 2012 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President and Louth TD Gerry Adams has called for ‘meaningful consultation and the broadest terms of reference for the Constitutional Convention.’

The Sinn Féin leader has expressed ‘deep concern at the failure of the Taoiseach to honour a commitment he made on holding consultations with opposition leaders on the constitutional convention.’

In setting out Sinn Féin’s proposed priorities for the Convention Mr Adams called for a fully transparent and inclusive process that will reach out to citizens in the north, including unionists, and to the diaspora, and take account of the desire for an extension of the franchise and the creation of a united Ireland.

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.

Teachta Adams said:

“Last week the government announced, without notification to the opposition parties that the Constitutional Convention would consist of 100 members made up of 66 citizens and 33 political representatives and a chairperson.

“The government statement said that the first issues to be discussed would be the reduction of the Presidential term and the voting age, and it then set out a list of other issues to be discussed.

“What value a consultation when the government has already decided on the format and terms of reference for the convention?

“The government’s unilateral announcement on the Constitutional Convention was cynical. It was an effort by it to set the agenda of the convention and maintain control over it. It is not about inclusiveness and an open debate on the future shape of the constitution but about control.

“The Taoiseach’s office rang my office after the government’s announcement and suggested a meeting this week. This is a very unsatisfactory way of discussing this important issue. I will attend but it should be about consultation not merely notification.

“Sinn Féin welcomed the proposal to convene a Constitutional Convention, with a view to comprehensive constitutional reform.

“Embarking on a process of comprehensive constitutional reform is a most serious undertaking which provides a huge opportunity to build the sort of inclusive, equality and rights based society envisaged by the architects of the 1916 Proclamation.

“It must not be squandered because of a lack of vision or narrow party political positions.

“There is the potential, if managed properly and democratically, to create a durable outcome that can advance reconciliation and peace and prosperity on the island of Ireland and between our people.” ENDS

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