Time for Our Referendum

The following is the text of a letter written by a number of regular HRinI contributors and signed by over 100 academics, which was published in the Irish Times today (full list of signators only available online). Here we have added a number of additional signatures received after the letter went to press. Others who wish to express their desire for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution should sign the petition organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign here

Dear Editor,

We are people in or from Ireland. We are under the age of 50. We could not vote in the 1983 abortion referendum which profoundly limited women’s autonomy. No subsequent referendum has provided an opportunity to undo that damage. Many of us have lived our whole lives under an abortion regime in which we have had no say. As a generation we have grown up knowing that the State would compel us to travel if we wished to exercise substantive control over our reproductive lives. Continue reading “Time for Our Referendum”

Time for Our Referendum

Is the Government's referendum "information" campaign unconstitutional?

Controversy has erupted surrounding the Government’s use of public funds for an allegedly neutral “information” campaign for the forthcoming referendum on the “Stability Treaty” (aka the Fiscal Compact).

While the Referendum Act 1998 provides for an independent referendum commission to inform voters on proposed amendments, the Government has committed an additional €2million for a separate “information” campaign. This has been spent on a website, stabilitytreaty.ie, already live, as well as a booklet due to be sent to all households next week, along with a leaflet later in the Campaign.

Sinn Fein has declared it will seek legal advice on the constitutionality of this expenditure. Indeed, while the Government has responded that the campaign is “informative” only and therefore not unconstitutional, it is somewhat odd, to say the least, that it has decided to launch a separate publicly-funded campaign outside of the independent statutory framework that already exists for informing voters.

Continue reading “Is the Government's referendum "information" campaign unconstitutional?”

Is the Government's referendum "information" campaign unconstitutional?

Getting to Grips with the Judges' Pay Referendum

On October 27th the electorate will vote for a new President and on two constitutional referenda. Both of these have received some attention here on HRinI in the past: I wrote on the judges’ pay referendum here and Eoin wrote on the Oireachtas Enquiries referendum here and here. In my earlier post I outlined some broad concerns about the judges’ pay referendum in the broader context of proposed and actual constitutional reform. In this post I want to look a little more closely at the wording, and outline what I consider to be some areas of ambiguity or uncertainty that, to me, justify voting no in the forthcoming referendum. I want, at the outset, to make it clear that I do not object to the proposition that there ought to be some way of reducing judicial pay in limited and exceptional circumstances. The reason I will be voting no in the forthcoming referendum is primarily because the amendment does not, in my view, put in place sufficient safeguards to ensure exceptionality of reductions; a situation that is only exacerbated by developments that suggest the Dáil will become ever more powerful in the near future. I want to start, however, by addressing a simple question that has arisen time and again when I have been speaking to people about the proposed amendment: ‘what is the big deal with judicial pay anyway?’ Continue reading “Getting to Grips with the Judges' Pay Referendum”

Getting to Grips with the Judges' Pay Referendum

Profound Moral Values? McAvoy on A, B & C v. Ireland

We are pleased to welcome the latest post in our series of  responses to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in A, B & C v. Ireland. This post is from Dr. Sandra McAvoy. An historian who focuses on issues around fertility control, she is co-ordinator of Women’s Studies at University College Cork and a member of Cork Women’s Right to Choose Group.

While the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ms C is to be welcomed because it may compel an Irish government to lay out when a woman whose life is at risk may have an abortion in Ireland. It would be regrettable; however, if something on the lines of the 2002 referendum were reintroduced.

Continue reading “Profound Moral Values? McAvoy on A, B & C v. Ireland”

Profound Moral Values? McAvoy on A, B & C v. Ireland

Still No Movement on the Children's Rights Constitutional Amendment

It is almost 3 months since the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children released its final report. As previously highlighted on this blog, this report followed 2 years, 62 Committee meetings, 2 other Committee reports and numerous milestones highlighting the precarious position of children’s rights in Irish society, including the publication of the Ryan and the Murphy reports.

The process leading up to and the content of the report was the subject of extensive discussion by contributors to this blog (see here and here), while a blog carnival on the draft wording proposed by the Committee was held on this blog in the week following the report’s publication.

Concern has already been expressed about the government’s failure to commit to a concrete date for a referendum on the constitutional amendment on the child, despite previous statements on the part of the Government that a constitutional amendment on children’s rights would go ahead once the Committee’s work was completed.

Yesterday, the Children’s Rights Alliance reported that

it transpired in the Oireachtas, yesterday, during an exchange between the Taoiseach and opposition leaders, Enda Kenny TD, and Eamon Gilmore TD, that the Cabinet has not yet considered the Joint Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children Report, despite receiving it months ago. Consequently, the advice of the Attorney General has not yet been sought. Continue reading “Still No Movement on the Children's Rights Constitutional Amendment”

Still No Movement on the Children's Rights Constitutional Amendment

Constitutional Renewal

As Liam mentioned here, I published an opinion piece in yesterday’s Irish Times in which I argued that commonly made calls for the wholesale replacement of the Irish Constitution (such as those made by, for example, the Labour Party, Justine McCarthy on Monday’s evening’s Aftershock on RTÉ and Leviathan) are misdirected. Instead of ushering in a ‘new republic’ or ‘renewed republic’ by means of a new Constitution, we ought, I said, to try to re-imagine our relationship with the State and to become more deeply engaged with the Constitution that we have. I want to say first of all that this was not an argument that the current Constitution is perfect or not in need of any amendment; it was argument against ‘scrapping’ Bunreacht na hÉireann and ‘starting over’ completely (the headline and by-line, as anyone who was written for a newspaper will know, were not written by me!). There are certainly some areas in which amendment would be helpful, but representing that the current state of our country would be rectified by scrapping Bunreacht na hÉireann and replacing it with a new Constitution strikes me as an unhelpful deflection from the real state of constitutional discourse in this country.

This discourse, I argued, is infected first of all by the manipulation of the Constitution by politicians who use the Constitution as a reason to do (or fail to do) certain things that are controversial, expensive or difficult and who, through failing to provide appropriate public education in the Constitution and the politics of this country, do not empower or equip us to challenge these assertions. Secondly, I argued that the discourse is infected by our own mythologizing of the Constitution and cultivation of an employee-client political system in which the ‘bigger’ picture can easily be lost.

In this post, I just want to address a few of the very interesting arguments that people have made in response to the piece and, I hope, to keep this conversation going. These are arguments have been made over at the Irish Times website and in this blog post by Prof. Ferdinand von Prondzysky at his excellent University Blog. I see five different themes in the various comments that have been made about the article, and I try to address each in turn here although they are all intertwined.

Continue reading “Constitutional Renewal”

Constitutional Renewal