17 Advocacy Groups to Address Citizens' Assembly on the Topic of Eighth Amendment

February 21st 2017:  The Citizens’ Assembly (the Assembly) will hear from a total of 17 advocacy and representative groups on the topic of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution at their meeting in March. The 17 groups invited to attend will present across five separate sessions on Sunday March 5th.

120 advocacy and representative groups made submissions to the Assembly on the topic of the Eighth Amendment. The publication of these submissions was prioritised and made available both to the members and online at www.citizensassembly.ie.  In accordance with rules and procedures governing the Assembly following receipt of submissions on any matter, the Assembly may choose to hear oral presentations from any representative Group or individual to assist in its deliberations.

At the February meeting of the Assembly, members were asked to indicate which groups they would like to present to the Assembly. To ensure balance, both on the day and in the overall programme, a final decision on which groups to invite was made by Chair of the Assembly, Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy.

To accommodate the groups the Assembly will work for a full day on Sunday 5th. Ms Justice Laffoy said “The work ethic and commitment of the Assembly members who give up their time freely to this process must be absolutely commended. The Eighth Amendment is one of the most complex and contentious topics in Irish society and there are many voices, many opinions and many organisations who participate in this debate. At the next meeting of the Assembly, members will have an opportunity to hear from groups across the spectrum of this debate in what I hope will be a calm, reasonable and enlightening series of presentations.”

The Assembly has asked that the groups who attend make one member of their organisation available to present. In keeping with rules and procedures of the Assembly to date all references included in presentations and papers to the Assembly must contain all relevant citations. The Assembly Secretariat reserves the right to clarify any matter in relation to citations. All papers and presentations will be made available on the day on the Assembly website www.citizensassembly.ie.

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Media Contact: Síle Murphy, Q4PR, 01 475 1444/ 086 0288 132

Note to Editors

The Citizens’ Assembly (the Assembly) will hear from a total of 17 advocacy and representative groups on the topic of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution at their meeting in March. 

The submissions process on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution was open from the 14 October 2016 to 16 December 2016.

Submissions were received from a wide range of advocacy Groups and other interest/representative organisations (Groups). Some 120 submissions of this kind were received and a full list of the advocacy groups, political parties and other interest/representative organisations who made a submission can be viewed here.

Publication of these was prioritised and they were made available online from 12th January. A full list was circulated to all members.

The Rules and Procedures for the Citizens Assembly state the following in relation to Presentations to the Assembly:

“Following receipt of submissions on any matter, the Assembly may choose to hear oral presentations from any representative Group or individual to assist in its deliberations. ... Invitations shall be issued by the Chairperson on behalf of the Assembly.”

Only Groups which made a submission could be considered for invitation to address the Assembly.

At the February meeting of the Assembly, members were asked to indicate which groups they would like to present to the Assembly. To ensure balance, both on the day and in the overall programme, a final decision on which groups to invite was made by Chair of the Assembly, Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy. 

This decision  takes into  account the perspective of the Members at the February meeting of the Assembly and was informed by the following:

  • The extent to which submissions addressed the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution; the topic upon which the Assembly is deliberating, and the extent to which the submission covered new material not previously considered by the Assembly;
  • The need to ensure balance on either side of the debate. That balance is particularly important where the Group in question is comprised of professionals presenting either sides of the debate (e.g. medical profession). In some cases, the Assembly only received submissions from professional organisations on one side of the debate and therefore, in the interests of balance, it was not possible to include them;
  • Where possible the Groups should be representative of the population at home and abroad. Groups which provided the perspective of pro-choice or pro-life Groups more generally (for example advocacy Groups from abroad) were not given priority;
  • Political Parties were not invited, as the recommendations and report of the Assembly will be discussed by the Oireachtas in due course;

Finally, even with an extended timetable to accommodate as many Groups as possible, it has simply not been possible to accommodate every Group. While this is regretted, it is a function of inevitable time constraints.

 In total 17 Groups were invited and accepted an invitation to address the Assembly. These Groups are:

  • Amnesty International
  • Atheist Ireland
  • Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment 
  • Doctors for Choice
  • Doctors for Life Ireland
  • Every Life Counts
  • Family & Life
  • Irish Catholic Bishops Conference
  • Irish Family Planning Association
  • Parents for Choice
  • Pro Life Campaign
  • The General Synod of the Church of Ireland
  • The Iona Institute
  • The National Women's Council of Ireland
  • Union of Students in Ireland
  • Women Hurt
  • Youth Defence

NOTE: The list presented to the members at the February meeting had 120 Groups. Three were added in the week following the meeting as there had been a technical issue when the submissions were being uploaded to the website. The organisations in question were Doctors for Choice, the Social Democrats and IMPACT Trade Union, The Labour Party, Irish Congress of Trade Unions.