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A Gendered Analysis of Participation in Ireland’s Constitutional Convention

Fri, August 31, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Marriott, Yarmouth


Ireland’s innovative Convention on the Constitution (2012-2014) included randomly selected ‘lay’ citizens and political representatives in a deliberative mini-public that made recommendations on a wide range of constitutional issues. Mindful of the gender gap identified in studies of deliberative forums the Convention made specific design choices to achieve both internal and external gender inclusion where external inclusion is concerned with representation and internal inclusion with participation and consideration. This paper endeavours to assess its success in this regard. Developing a series of hypotheses that anticipate that group composition, the topic for deliberation, membership type and forum will influence gendered rates of participation (voice), the paper uses data collected during the course of the Convention to explore the effects of contextual (institutional rules, procedures and topics discussed) and actor related characteristics (gender, type of membership) on member’s participation rates. Measuring participation in terms of per capita number of speech acts it finds, unexpectedly, that neither the topic discussed nor the gender composition of the small roundtable deliberations influenced gender rates of participation. Forum (public/no- public), however, matters. These findings raise some interesting issues in terms of mini-publics their design and contextual characteristics, in particular, with regard to the deliberative ideals of inclusion and equality.