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Constitutional Mini-Publics: Ireland as a Trail-Blazer

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

Session Submission Type: Full Paper Panel

Session Description

In Europe, deliberative democracy has taken a constitutional turn. Iceland, Ireland, Estonia, Luxembourg and Romania are among the countries which have turned to some extent to deliberative processes to reform their constitutions. These follow earlier experiments in the Netherlands and in parts of Canada. What these experiments in constitutional reform share is the central role played by random samples of citizens—by constitutional mini-publics, if you will. Ireland has been at the forefront of this trend—indeed, it has become something of a trail-blazer. It is, after all, the first case in which the process has been employed a second time. The Irish Citizens’ Assembly, established by the Irish government in late 2016 and still currently active, follows upon the Convention on the Constitution, held in 2012-2014. It was the latter, of course, which led to Ireland’s famous referendum legalizing marriage equality. Initiatives like this are indicative of how democracies can adapt in challenging times, experimenting with new forms of citizen engagement. The purpose of this panel is to provide a comprehensive assessment of this new form of constitutional review.

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