Friday 21st of April 2017: The Citizens’ Assembly (the Assembly) will meet at the Grand Hotel Malahide on the 22nd and 23rd of April for the final meeting on the first item referred to it by the Dáil Resolution, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. This is the fifth meeting on the topic of the Eighth Amendment and as outlined in the terms of reference establishing the Assembly, the members will make conclusions and recommendations that will form the basis of a report for submission to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The work programme for the weekend will be focused on reaching these recommendations by ballot paper voting and will comprise of several steps namely; agreeing on the issues to be included in a ballot; agreeing on the precise wording of the ballot or ballots; voting.
The Assembly is first and foremost an exercise in deliberative democracy and at the end of the March meeting of the Assembly, following four weekends of consideration on the topic, members were invited to make suggestions on the types of issues they thought should be voted upon or included on a ballot paper at the final weekend. These suggestions have informed the preparation of a draft ballot paper, circulated to the Members before Easter. This work is being led by the Chair Justice Mary Laffoy, with the assistance of the Expert Advisory Group and the Secretariat and with input from the Member Steering Group.
Each draft ballot will be subject to discussion, including private roundtable discussions and question and answer sessions to examine the draft and facilitate any changes suggested and agreed by the members and Chair. The draft ballot is sequential in nature, meaning each ballot is dependent on the outcome of earlier ballots and not all ballots may be reached.
Voting will be in secret and the voting process and counting of ballot papers will be overseen by Mr. John Fitzpatrick, the former Returning Officer for County Dublin and his team. It is intended that the results of the ballot will be announced as soon as the votes have been counted and verified and this announcement will be done by the Chair in public session which the public can watch live.
Chairperson of the Assembly, Justice Mary Laffoy said: “Tomorrow Assembly members will gather together to conclude their consideration of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Following four weekends of in-depth consideration on the topic, at which the members heard from legal, ethical and medical experts, advocates and the voices of those directly affected by the Eighth Amendment, I am confident that we are now are in a position where we can make recommendations.
“I wish to commend the Members who have shown an incredible work ethic, this will be the fifth weekend where they have been asked to immerse themselves in one of the most complex and contentious topics in Irish society. I have worked closely with them as they have engaged on legislation, immersed themselves in medical and ethical discourse and listened with respect to the voices and opinions of others. In their work to date they have covered ground that has never previously been explored or in Ireland and this will be to the benefit of discourse on this topic.”
“Again, I am encouraging the public to tune into live.citizensassembly.ie and watch the proceedings live. The Assembly’s public proceedings will be available on three separate channels: in English, as Gaeilge and with Irish sign language.”
Following this final weekend on the Eighth Amendment, Chairperson, Justice Mary Laffoy will begin work on the final report. The result of the vote at this weekend’s meeting will be the most significant content of the report.
In the feedback from members at the March meeting, the Members also indicated that they would like to see wider policy issues, as distinct from just legal changes, reflected in the recommendations of the Assembly. Over the course of the weekend Members will be provided with a response form to allow them to record any ancillary recommendations they may have in addition to, or because of, the main voting on the substantive issue. This will then be gathered and collated by the Secretariat and any consensus issues emerging will be included and reflected as recommendations in the final report.
The Chair will also use the report to provide details of the full suite of materials presented to the Assembly, and to describe in detail the process and background to the Assembly.
Once the report is finalised, it will be circulated for information to the Assembly members before being presented to the House of the Oireachtas. It is the Chair’s intention to finalise the report by the end of June 2017 at the latest.
Media Contact: Sile Murphy or Nora Eastwood at Q4PR - 01 475 1444 / 086 028 8132 / 087 175 4149
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Twitter: @CitizAssembly #CitizensAssembly
Notes to Editor:
Assembly members have been asked to refrain from media interviews or public commentary while the Assembly is actively considering a topic.
To view this weekend's agenda, please click here.