Meetings

The inaugural meeting of the Citizens' Assembly was on the 15 October 2016.

The Assembly was initially due to conclude its meetings in July 2017. However, the Chair made the decision in March that the May meeting should be cancelled and replaced with a meeting at the end of September. As the original schedule had only a four week break from the end of the Eighth Amendment to the weekend on older people and then only 3 weeks between that and the weekend on climate change, the Chair felt that such a relentless pace would be unfair on the members, unmanageable for the Secretariat and most importantly would not allow sufficient time to prepare for the other topics.

The Chair later decided that the second topic - how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population - would require two weekend's deliberations to adequately cover it. As such, the Assembly considered this particular topic on 10-11 June and 8-9 July.

It was decided that a second weekend would also be required for the Assembly's third topic - how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. The Assembly will consider this topic on the 30 September -1 October and 4-5 November.

The Assembly received an extension from the Houses of the Oireachtas in order to complete its consideration of the remaining two topics in early 2018.

A revised full calendar of meetings is available here.

The meetings of the Citizens' Assembly will be live streamed here.

Generally speaking the format for the meetings will be as follows:

  • Introductory remarks by the Chairperson 
  • Expert presentations 
  • Presentations from civil society and advocacy groups
  • Consideration of submissions by Members of the public 
  • Question and Answer Sessions and Debates 
  • Roundtable discussions

Deliberation and Facilitation of Discussions

Deliberation by members is a cornerstone of the Assembly exercise. Roundtable discussions are built into the timetable for each Assembly meeting to allow the members the opportunity to further examine, discuss, debate and enhance their understanding of the material they are considering.

To assist with this discussion, facilitators and note-takers are present at each table. Roomaxx Ltd were selected to provide this service following a competitive tendering process.

At the Citizens’ Assembly, roundtable discussions typically take place in two distinct formats. The role of the facilitator/ notetaker is slightly different in each case.

These differences and the roles of the facilitator/ notetaker in each case are explained below.

Roundtable discussions following a presentation

Following a presentation from an expert or invited speaker, the Assembly typically breaks off into private session roundtable discussions to allow the members to discuss what they have heard and to hear each other’s views. The role of the facilitator in those cases is to:

  • Facilitate a discussion in keeping with the Ground Rules and to focus on the conversation starters provided by the secretariat. 
  • Note any questions from the table which the members would like them to ask on their behalf in the public Q&A session. This must be agreed with all members and should also include agreement on priority questions with their table in case there isn’t time for every question. This is not obligatory as members are free to ask questions directly of the panelist.
  • Record a short summary of the discussion for record keeping purposes. Again this must be agreed with all members.

Roundtable discussions

From time to time at the Assembly roundtable discussions are scheduled to allow members to consider matters in more detail; for example to begin thinking about how recommendations might be formed.

The role of the facilitator in those cases is to:

  • Facilitate a discussion in keeping with the Ground Rules and to focus on the conversation starters provided by the secretariat. 
  • Record a summary of the discussion and feed this back to the Chair of the Assembly in the public session. This must be agreed with all members. In undertaking this task, the facilitators and members should be aware of the following:
              • The facilitator is speaking on behalf of the members at the table. As such, in describing the discussion the facilitator should avoid language like ‘it is our view/ we believe’. As the facilitator is not part of the discussion, phrases like, ‘it is the view of this table’ ‘some at this table expressed the view’ etc should be used. 
              • Where possible the facilitator should provide feedback on the full range of views expressed at each table. The role of the facilitator in these sessions is not to present an agreed conclusion to a discussion, but rather to summarise the discussion that has taken place. In the spirit of equality of voice, one of the key principles of the Assembly, it is important that the full range of views is aired and reported to the Chair.

Guidelines provided to facilitators and note-takers to help them carry out their role are available to view here

Recommendations

Following these discussions, all matters before the Assembly will be voted upon and recommendations based on the majority view of the Members will be made to the Houses of the Oireachtas. 

The Government will then provide a response to each recommendation of the Assembly and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum.