Citizens' Assembly: Motion

I remind Members of the arrangements that apply pursuant to an order of the Dáil today. The Minister and the main spokespersons will have five minutes each and all other Members will have a further five minutes.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

approves the calling of a Citizens’ Assembly to consider the following matters and to make such recommendations as it sees fit and report to the Houses of the Oireachtas:

(i) the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution;

(ii) how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population;

(iii) fixed term parliaments; and

(iv) the manner in which referenda are held;

and

notes that:

— membership of the Assembly will consist of 100 persons as follows:

— a Chairperson to be appointed by the Government; and

— 99 citizens entitled to vote at a referendum, randomly selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society;

— substitutes may be appointed subject to the selection criteria above, who will be entitled to contribute to the proceedings and vote in their own name;

— the Assembly will agree its own rules of procedure for the effective conduct of its business in as economical a manner as possible;

— the Assembly will first make a report and recommendation on the matter set out at (i) above to the Houses of the Oireachtas, which on receipt will refer the report for consideration to a Committee of both Houses which will in turn bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate;

— the Assembly will report and make recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas on each remaining matter as soon as it has completed its deliberations, but in any event not later than one year from the date of the first Assembly meeting;

— the Assembly will also be asked to consider such other matters as may be referred to it;

— an Expert Advisory Group will be established to assist the work of the Assembly in terms of preparing information and advice;

— the Assembly may invite and accept submissions from interested bodies and will seek such expert advice as it considers desirable;

— all matters before the Assembly will be determined by a majority of the votes of members present and voting, other than the Chairperson who will have a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes; and

— the Government will provide in the Houses of the Oireachtas 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.

The resolution before the House today fulfils the Government’s promise in A Programme for a Partnership Government to establish a citizens’ assembly with a mandate to look at a limited number of key issues over an extended time period. The programme states, "These issues will not be limited to those directly pertaining to the Constitution and may include issues such as, for example how we, as a nation, best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population." That said, we will ask the citizens' assembly to make recommendations to the Dáil on further constitutional changes, including on the eighth amendment, on fixed-term parliaments and on the manner in which referenda are held, for example, whether super referendum days, whereby a significant number of referenda take place on the same day, should be held.

The assembly follows the success of the Convention on the Constitution. This was an important and imaginative step never tried before in Ireland and the previous Government accepted a number of significant recommendations made by the convention, for example, that the Ceann Comhairle be elected by secret ballot, that provision be made for the proportionate allocation of committee chairs using the d'Hondt system and that an electoral commission be established. Most significant of all, on foot of the convention's recommendations to the previous Government, on Friday, 22 May 2015, two referendums were held on the age threshold for candidates in presidential elections and on marriage equality. As the House is aware, the referendum on marriage equality was passed by a decisive majority. This was the first time that a proposal for constitutional change put forward by the Constitutional Convention resulted in actual constitutional change. It was also the first time that marriage equality was carried by popular vote anywhere in the world.

Like the convention, the citizens’ assembly will be independent of Government. As with the convention, resolutions of both Houses of the Oireachtas will approve its establishment and it will report back directly to the Oireachtas. The resolution before the House today is closely modelled on the resolution approving establishment of the convention.

The assembly will comprise 99 citizens and an independent chairperson. A polling company will be engaged to select 99 people on the electoral register to be members of the assembly. They will be randomly selected to be broadly representative of the electorate as a whole. Politicians will not be members of the assembly. This to allow for as broad a representation as possible from the public. The citizens will have ownership of the process and I would strongly urge anyone who is contacted to take the opportunity to participate in this initiative. They should not be afraid of that phone call when it comes. It would be a very interesting experience and all of us who served on the convention would recognise that it was a worthwhile experience. Politicians will of course have the opportunity to consider and respond to the assembly’s recommendations when the assembly’s reports are debated in the House.

As Deputies will be aware, legislation - the Electoral (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2016 - will be required to permit the electoral register to be used in the selection process and that legislation will be brought before the House this week and perhaps even tonight if we get a chance to progress it.

The chairperson will be independent and, as in the case of the Convention on the Constitution, will be pivotal to the success of the assembly. The Taoiseach has already promised in the House to consult the Government and Opposition leaders about potential candidates for chairperson.

As I have outlined, the topics which the assembly will consider, as detailed in A Programme for a Partnership Government, are set out in the resolution. The citizens’ assembly will be asked to consider the eighth amendment of the Constitution, how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population, fixed-term parliaments, and the manner in which referenda are held. The assembly will also be asked to consider such other matters as may be referred to it.

Given its importance, the resolution sets out that the first item the assembly will consider is the eighth amendment of the Constitution. When completed, the assembly’s report on the eighth amendment will be sent to an Oireachtas committee, which in turn will bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate.

It is intended that the assembly will be established by October. The resolution gives it a 12-month deadline from its establishment to complete all its work and submit its reports.

It is presumed the assembly members will wish to have expert advice available to them about their work. For this purpose, an expert advisory group will be established to assist the work of the assembly. The composition of this group will be a matter for the chair of the assembly. The use of such experts was a key feature of the way the Convention on the Constitution did its work. The expert group’s membership may of course change at different stages of the assembly process to reflect the particular issue under consideration.

The chairperson and other members of the assembly will no doubt be anxious to hear from a broad spectrum of opinion in carrying out their work. As with the convention, interest groups can be invited, at the discretion of the chair, to present their views when topics relevant to them are being discussed. They, and indeed the general public, will of course be able to make written submissions for consideration by the assembly.

The Government will provide in the Oireachtas a response to each recommendation of the assembly. We will arrange for a debate in the Oireachtas in each case and, in the event that the Government accepts a recommendation that the Constitution be amended, the Government’s public response will include a timeframe for the holding of any such referendum.

This assembly will belong to the citizens, it will be an opportunity for a broad spectrum of society to reflect and report on a number of key issues. I commend this resolution to the House. I am sure the House will join me in wishing the assembly well in its work.

The motion before the House seeks our support for the establishment of a citizens' assembly to consider four issues. Those issues, as the Minister of State has identified, are, first, the eighth amendment, second, how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population, third, fixed-term parliaments, and, fourth, the manner in which referenda are held.

Fianna Fáil will be abstaining on this motion for a variety of reasons. The first reason is that we recognise that the issue of the impact of the eighth amendment is a matter that merits discussion and consideration. However, Fianna Fáil believes that because it is an issue of such sensitivity and complexity, it cannot be dealt with adequately by putting together 100 citizens in what is referred to as a citizens' assembly. We know the breadth of opinion on the issue in society and we believe that will simply be reflected in the citizens' assembly and we will not have the effect or result of any expert analysis as a result of a citizens' assembly looking at that matter. Dáil Éireann could do that matter just as easily.

What we had proposed in our manifesto was a judge-led commission to inquire into the eighth amendment. A judge-led commission would have been able to call and question persons with medical and legal expertise and would also have been able to call and listen to evidence from various interest groups. While the Minister may say the citizens' assembly will be able to do that also, the difference is that a judge-led commission can provide a cogent and coherent report which carries the weight of a member of the superior courts. A judge-led report could outline and provide the Oireachtas with a series of proposals and we could choose which to follow in respect of the eighth amendment. For that reason, a judge-led commission is the way to go on this particularly sensitive issue. A citizens' assembly will not be effective. A report produced by a judge in respect of the issue would be intellectually coherent and allow us to look at the options laid out and pick one.

Another reason Fianna Fáil is abstaining in respect of the motion involves the other issues the assembly will be asked to look at. The second issue relates to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population. One must ask what, in effect, the 100 people chosen are being asked to do in respect of this matter. When they are randomly selected and included in the assembly, are they to come up with some proposal in respect of amending the Constitution? Are we asking them to come up with some proposal in respect of introducing new legislation or are we asking them to come forward with a policy on the ageing population in Ireland? It is very uncertain and unfair to ask a collection of 100 people to come up with proposals in respect of the challenges and opportunities an ageing population faces.

The motion also proposes that the citizens' assembly considers fixed-term parliaments. This has been given inadequate consideration. Are we asking the assembly to suggest an amendment to Article 13.2 of the Constitution in order that the power of a Taoiseach to seek a dissolution from the President should be removed? That is what would be required to introduce fixed-term parliaments. It is unfair to ask a group of 100 people to give us their general view on fixed-term parliaments as the discussion will simply be framed by how such parliaments have been introduced in England, notwithstanding that there is a completely different constitutional order in that country.

The fourth item the assembly will be asked to consider is the manner in which referenda are held. Again, it is a matter of cryptic uncertainty as to what is meant by that. Are we asking these people if they recommend amending Articles 46 and 47 of the Constitution which deal with the amendment of the Constitution and referenda? It is completely unclear what is being provided for in the motion.

The motion recognises that there will be 100 members of the citizens' assembly. One will be appointed by the Government while 99 will be randomly selected to be broadly representative of society. If we want people who are broadly representative of society, everyone in society should be included and not simply those entitled to vote in Dáil elections. It is not going to be broadly representative of society if it is going to be randomly selected from individuals who can vote in Dáil elections.

It was remiss of me not to congratulate the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on his election when I spoke on the earlier business before the House. I wish him every success. I know he will be extremely fair and bring dignity and honour to the post.

After careful consideration, my party cannot support the motion tabled by the Government. A very clear and coherent argument against the motion was made by Deputy Jim O'Callaghan on behalf of Fianna Fáil, notwithstanding his indication that the party intended to abstain. We will not support the legislation creating the assembly either. My colleague, Deputy Jan O'Sullivan, will speak on that later in the debate.

The first and most important issue to be considered by the proposed assembly is the eighth amendment of the Constitution. As anyone who has served in the House for any period knows, abortion has been one of the most divisive issues in politics over the past 30 years. When I voted against the eighth amendment to the Constitution in 1983 as a newly appointed Member of Seanad Éireann, I believed the Constitution was not the place to attempt to deal with issues as complex as abortion. I was right then and my party was right to oppose the placing of that amendment proposal before the people at that time. Clearly, we must now address the broad range of issues which have arisen in the intervening 33 years. It is the solemn and proper duty of the Oireachtas to undertake that task. To seek to offload this difficult and contentious issue and to franchise out this really important work to what is, in essence, a focus group gathered by a polling company is wrong. Focus groups are formed by polling companies randomly selecting representative samples of the people, so that is what it is. It will not work and, bluntly, I consider it to be an act of political cowardice designed to long-finger an issue that should be addressed now.

It is wrong for the Minister of State to say that this is analogous to the Constitutional Convention which was a completely different creature involving politicians interacting, debating and bringing their skill sets to the discussion of constitutional matters with the public. We have a citizens' assembly elected by the people of Ireland in a democratic election. That assembly is called Oireachtas Éireann and, under Article 15, it has the sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State. In an area as difficult as this, we should step up to the plate and do that. We have a challenging and difficult job to do to address this issue, but we have shown, for example, by the way the health committee handled the very complex preparatory work for the X case legislation, that we can do it. People have the right to have their views heard and to have them challenged and to hear the views of medical, legal and constitutional experts, but that process should be conducted under the authority and oversight of the elected Oireachtas. I am afraid the only reason the path offered by the Government is being followed is to bring about delay.

This is a do-nothing Dáil. Today is the first day we have actually passed a Bill since the general election in February.

One of them was 13 words. It is a glorified debating society unable to make a real decision on anything. It would be bad enough if the only consequence of this proposal - and I do not think it is a consequence we should accept - was delay. My fear is that it will lead to further division and entrenchment of views on this most sensitive matter when we should be trying to map a way forward that brings the majority of people with us on the need for change. With all sincerity, I ask the Government to think again about the way it proposes to address the particular issue of the eighth amendment. We can look at a citizens' assembly to do other things, albeit I share Deputy O'Callaghan's views about the opaqueness of the issues being put before this one. I ask that the Government allows the only real citizens' assembly, which consists of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, to set to work immediately to address this issue.

I move amendment No. 4:

To delete all words after "That Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“approves the calling of a Constitutional Convention to consider the following matters and to make such recommendations as it sees fit and report to the Houses of the Oireachtas:

(i) the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution;

(ii) how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population;

(iii) fixed term parliaments;

(iv) the manner in which referenda are held;

(v) political reform, including reform of the Dáil and the Seanad;

(vi) the implementation of outstanding recommendations of the Constitutional Convention;

(vii) the implications of the ‘Brexit’ referendum on north/south co-operation, all-Ireland service provision and the Good Friday Agreement; and

(viii) national reconciliation and Irish unity; and

notes that:

— membership of the Convention will consist of 100 persons as follows:

— a Chairperson to be appointed by the Dáil;

— 62 citizens entitled to vote at a referendum, randomly selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society;

— four residents not entitled to vote at a referendum, selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society;

— a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly from each of the political parties in the Assembly; and

— members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, so as to be impartially representative of the Houses;

— substitutes may be appointed subject to the selection criteria above, who will be entitled to contribute to the proceedings and vote in their own name;

— the Convention will agree its own rules of procedure for the effective conduct of its business in as economical a manner as possible;

— the Convention will have appropriate regard to the Good Friday Agreement and other agreements;

— the Convention will first make a report and recommendation on the matter set out at (i) above within two months of its first meeting to the Houses of the Oireachtas, which on receipt will refer the report for consideration to a Committee of both Houses within one week which will in turn bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate within one month;

— the Convention will report and make recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas on each remaining matter as soon as it has completed its deliberations, but in any event not later than one year from the date of the first Convention meeting;

— the Convention will also be asked to consider such other matters as may be referred to it;

— an Expert Advisory Group will be established to assist the work of the Convention in terms of preparing information and advice;

— the Convention may invite and accept submissions from interested bodies and will seek such expert advice as it considers desirable;

— all matters before the Convention will be determined by a majority of the votes of members present and voting, other than the Chairperson who will have a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes; and

— the Government will provide in the Houses of the Oireachtas a response to each recommendation of the Convention and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum."

Ba mhaith liom an leasú a mholadh. Nuair a bhí mé ag caint níos luaithe, rinne mé dearmad comhghairdeas a dhéanamh leat, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

Go raibh maith agat.

Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat i d'oifig nua. Cuirim fáilte roimh an deis seo labhairt ar an rún atá os comhair na Dála anocht. Baineann an rún leis an Tionól Saoránach atá beartaithe.

All mechanisms by which citizens can have further opportunities to participate in democratic processes should be welcomed and commended. There have been a number of successful endeavours in that regard, in particular our citizens initiative in 2011, which is clearly one on which the Government's proposal is modelled. Citizens' assemblies have proven successful in many other states including, for example, Canada. I do not doubt that a similar proposal in this State would prove useful. That said, we had a deliberative assembly, the Constitutional Convention, that sat from December 2012 to March 2014 and worked well. Sinn Féin wanted to see a more powerful convention with more teeth, but we went with the Government's proposal. I was lucky to be one of the participants and attended every session except one. The convention, its chair and secretariat and, in particular, the citizen delegates did an excellent job and produced a series of first-class reports and recommendations. It was an uplifting and useful process for everyone involved.

Sinn Féin's amendment calls for the convention to be reconvened with a new remit. Among the issues set by the Government, it should examine matters that affect the entire island in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum as well as recommendations still outstanding from the previous convention, including that on political reform. I made our position clear to the Taoiseach when I wrote to him just before he took a memo on the current proposal to the Cabinet, but we still do not have an explanation as to why he opted for a different model and did not take our suggestions on board. I also encouraged him to consider the appointment of elected representatives, as was the case previously. One reason for the convention working so well was that political representatives worked alongside citizens in an holistic way. Given its all-island structure, it had members from the Assembly, which was positive. However, that approach is being abandoned under the current proposal.

Sinn Féin's opinion on the eighth amendment is clear and the broad consensus in the Dáil and outside is that it needs to be repealed. We do not believe that there needs to be a further delay on such an urgent issue. Accordingly, our amendment proposes that the convention report on this issue within two months and that the report be dealt with by the Houses within one month. Anything longer would be unacceptable.

It is worth remembering that the Government has failed to implement many of the recommendations of the previous convention. A range of constitutional changes were proposed, including the extension of voting rights to citizens in the North and to members of the diaspora in respect of presidential elections. The Minister of State with responsibility for the diaspora, Deputy McHugh, made remarks in recent days indicating that a referendum on voting rights for the diaspora might be held next year, but he made no mention of citizens in the North. It would be odd if an Irish passport holder from Derry, Belfast, Fermanagh or Tyrone got a vote after moving to London but would not get one if he or she stayed at home. Perhaps the Minister of State, Deputy English, might clarify the position before the debate concludes.

The convention proposed referendums to remove from the Constitution the offence of blasphemy and to provide a constitutional right to housing. A proposal was also made for a referendum on the article covering a woman’s life within the home. A new convention should be allowed to give its views as to when these proposals should be put to the people. The Constitutional Convention worked, so why change it? I urge all Deputies to support amendment No. 4, which proposes to convene a new convention to provide for a more robust and deliberative forum and allow for more issues to be addressed than would the Government’s proposal.

Deputies Coppinger and Bríd Smith are sharing five minutes.

I will take five minutes and Deputy Bríd Smith will take a later five-minute slot.

What we have before us is clear. It is a charade that the Government - both Fine Gael and the "Endapendents" - believes it had to devise. It would be laughable were it not so serious. One hundred people who presumably all have jobs and lives must gather several times and deliberate over a growing list of topics. Deputies have thrown in the Thirty-two Counties and the Green Party has argued for something else, but this is really about the eighth amendment. Let us not kid ourselves. The Government is struggling to find a formula that will allow it not to deal with what has become the key civil rights issue for this generation, namely, people's need to control their own destinies if they have unwanted pregnancies and the need to repeal the eighth amendment and legislate for abortion rights. This country's conservative establishment has clung to the Catholic church for so many decades that it no longer knows what it would do otherwise. It wants to push this issue off the Dáil’s agenda. Everyone outside the Houses knows this.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance will oppose the motion because we recognise that abortion is the reality for thousands of women. They cannot wait any longer for this House to deal with what they know has to be done. They must leave the State, incurring expense, shame, secrecy and criminality. We need to recognise this, repeal the eighth amendment and legislate for abortion rights. We need to end the hypocrisy and cowardice. A referendum is the only solution. We do not need a citizens’ assembly to deliberate for a year only for it to tell us that. This is now common currency. Attitudes have changed beyond belief outside the Houses. In the previous Amnesty poll, 75% of people supported a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment but the Dáil is preventing people from having their democratic say.

The catch-cry from the Government last year when a repeal of the eighth amendment referendum Bill was tabled was that there was no appetite to revisit the issue. The issue has not been visited for 33 years. There is a Private Members’ Bill to revisit the divorce legislation and shorten its terms, which I support. Is it the idea that we do not need to revisit something such as the eighth amendment after an entire generation? The Government’s current catch-cry is that it needs a commission to tell it what would replace the amendment. I have noticed another claim recently, namely, that a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment would not pass. Deputies who were pro-choice and so-called feminists are using self-serving arguments to justify sitting in a Government that is delaying on this issue. We can win a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment. One of the reasons that I am convinced of this is that I am regularly out on the streets discussing this issue with people from all walks of life. People have the ability to sway and win this referendum. Young people, women and others, will come out to support this referendum.

AAA-PBP has tabled amendments to the motion. The first relates to the word "citizens". It is annoying and offensive that Deputies continue to use this word when referring to ordinary people. Ireland has a large population of people who are not citizens. They may or may not be from Europe. They are affected by the eighth amendment. A number of amendments insist that this fact be reflected. Will the Government at least allow local election voters to be included if this sham is to go through?

The other issue is gender. A group of 100 people from all walks will decide on something that will only affect a minority of those in their lives. I completely disagree with that.

This matter should never have been dealt with in the Constitution. Unfortunately, we need a referendum to get rid of the relevant amendment, but let us not have a group of people who will never be affected by the issue deciding on the wording and on how to proceed.

Can the Government clarify its position? The Government is giving the assembly a year to come back with a decision on the eighth amendment. Will it agree that this is doing nothing but adding to the trauma of many women whose circumstances it would not deal with in the Dáil last week and that the period should be shortened to three months at the very most? That is all that is needed.

I was a member of the Constitutional Convention and, therefore, I know how the system works. It can be effective and efficient. The effectiveness and efficiency of the convention was primarily attributable to the fact that it was representative of Irish society, accounting for gender, age, rural and urban considerations, job, profession and the unemployed. There was an excellent chairman in Mr. Tom Arnold, who was fair and impartial in ensuring all voices were heard. There was also a very efficient secretariat. There were facilitators who ensured nobody was allowed to dominate the round-table discussions. We had a range of experts brought in to give their opinions. The politicians and citizens complemented one another and the process was very much mutually beneficial. We have the groundwork done and an example of how to do this right. It is vital that the assembly have an independent chairman who is experienced and respected and that it have the secretariat, funding and resources of the kind we had at the Constitutional Convention. There was a small committee that worked with the chairman of the convention. It comprised the politicians and citizens who made the suggestions and recommendations. It accepted submissions. Everybody could not be heard but the convention ensured that there was fair representation of voices and we had international input on occasion.

The proposed assembly, albeit a citizens’ assembly, should have been envisaged like the Constitutional Convention. It is rather ironic that when the latter was first proposed, I believed politicians should not be members thereof and that only citizens should be involved. Now, because it worked so well, I am of the opinion it is better to have both.

The current census results must be taken into account in the making of the random selection. I felt the under-25 age group was somewhat under-represented at the convention given our young population. The problem is our electoral system because we know it is not accurate. The citizens have to be representative of all the socio-economic groups.

I am disappointed over the proposal regarding the timeframes. The Government needs to re-examine that. The assembly should report and make recommendations as soon as the deliberations are made. I do not know why a deadline of "not later than a year" was chosen. We need a much tighter timeframe, within which the Government will hold the referendum.

I would have liked to have seen other topics proposed, including that raised by the Green Party in respect of climate change. I hope the assembly is not an exercise in kicking to touch issues that have to be dealt with. Since the Constitutional Convention worked so well, I am hopeful about this assembly.

The amendment we shall move, the fifth, proposes changes but I actually do not support the establishment of the assembly. However, if it is to go ahead, I ask that the amendment be taken on board. The Government has got itself into an absolute mess. The Constitution, when it was amended in 1983, led to the more serious problems that successive Dáileanna have refused to consider. It has led to the death of women and to the UN Human Rights Council condemning Ireland on more than one occasion. In the case of Amanda Jane Mellet, it said the treatment amounted to "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". I appeal to the female Deputies to listen to those words. If they, their sisters or daughters were involved, how would they feel about cruel inhuman and degrading treatment? Reference was made to a violation of Ms Mellet's privacy and of Article 26 in the context of discrimination.

Of the 5,521 non-English people who sought terminations in England in 2014, 68% were Irish. Of that percentage, amounting to 3,754 women, 135 were carrying foetuses with fatal foetal abnormalities. In Ireland, despite all the dire warnings about the floodgates opening, 26 women sought terminations owing to health risks in 2014. Only three were at risk of suicide.

We are going down the road of a citizens’ assembly because we are simply refusing to contemplate what we must face up to. This House is the citizens’ assembly. We were elected to do a job and we should do it. The year 1983 was a long time ago. Women have died in the meantime. They have suffered in the meantime because an amendment was made to the Constitution that should never have been made. Twice since 1983, a group came forward to try to make the Constitution even stricter, and the people spoke and said "No". We should use our voices in this citizens’ assembly to which we were elected as women to force a change. Let us trust women. No floodgates have opened. It is a time to respect women. Let them make up their minds in regard to a matter like this. If the Government is to go down the route of the assembly, I ask that the Government take on board my amendment. It is a positive amendment on the inclusion of politicians and on the setting of time limits.

I remind Members that they may not move any of amendments Nos. 1 to 3, inclusive, 5 or 6 until No. 4 is dealt with.

I am glad to be able to speak on this issue. I wish to refer to my amendment, although I may not move it yet. The idea of a citizens’ assembly that will be convened to remove the right to life from the Constitution, among other purposes, is utterly bizarre. A constitution ought to reflect and embody the finest principles of a nation. How does the idea of removing the eighth amendment achieve this?

We need absolute guarantees that, if the assembly proceeds, it will not be a politically choreographed charade with a predetermined outcome. Reference was made to the Constitutional Convention and its chairman. Deputies Maureen O’Sullivan and Catherine Murphy were members of the convention. I was a substitute but I never saw inside the door at any stage. I am not saying the members did not turn up at all times. I, for one, never got to debate or discuss anything.

The Dáil is the legitimate citizens’ assembly. The idea of convening another undermines the legitimacy of the Oireachtas. We had our election recently. It took long enough to form a Government afterwards but the people have spoken. Some Deputies have referred to the issue of the eighth amendment as the most important human rights issue of our time. The MRBI poll in May had it down as No. 13 among matters of concern to people. It was certainly not an issue for my electorate. I canvassed from July until the day before the election. Perhaps I had a handful of e-mails but constituents certainly did not raise the matter on the doorsteps.

There are serious concerns. Many people have indicated in this House that the proposed assembly is a mere ruse to kick an issue down the road. I believe this Parliament should have the power to make decisions. If the Government wants the people to speak, let them speak in a fair and open referendum. Let people speak without fear or favour. It is in this vein that I tabled my amendment, namely, that each member of the citizens’ assembly must declare membership of or affiliation to any organisation or group that has campaigned for the retention or repeal of the eighth amendment. We need to have a true and transparent process to choose the members of the assembly. This is important. In the new Dáil, there are certain Deputies with only two objectives, as is their right. One is to repeal the eighth amendment and the other is not to pay for water. These seem to be two issues of core principle for some. The right to life is vital. If the eighth amendment is repealed, what will be put in its place? Nobody has addressed that.

I did not see this addressed anywhere. I did not hear anybody say what they would substitute the existing wording with. Is there to be a free-for-all and an open-door policy? I certainly believe it is a matter for the Oireachtas and the people by way of a referendum on a constitutional amendment. There should be a fair, open debate without interference from abroad, as we had in some recent referendum campaigns, and without interference from the media. Those who want to speak should be allowed to do so without intimidation.

Let us listen to all the groups that want to have to exercise their democratic and legitimate right to have say in this matter without being subject to bullying or intimidation. I refer to groups such as Every Life Counts and One Day More. They must be given a fair hearing and we should listen to mothers who have experienced difficult pregnancies but who chose not to go down the road that some people are pushing by means of an almost daily diet of calls to repeal the eighth.

Perhaps the Deputy is getting-----

I did not interrupt or scoff at anyone. I have been freely elected by the people of Tipperary and I am as entitled as any other Deputy to have the protection of the Chair in expressing my views without being scoffed at. Some people have a one-track mind.

Deputy Mattie McGrath should stop lecturing women.

I am not lecturing anybody. I am simply observing that there is a constant clamour. It is as if nothing else was happening or we did not have a homelessness and housing crisis or people being evicted from their homes. Those are the most important issues facing us. An opinion poll carried out last May found that repealing the eighth amendment was far down the agenda when it came to the concerns of families and individuals. A small lobby cannot be allowed to thwart democracy. We should have a full and open debate and a referendum if necessary.

I welcome that the House is finally discussing a proposal to address the issue of the eighth amendment, although it has taken some time for it to come before us. There is a concern that the citizens' assembly could be used as a mechanism for kicking this issue down the road and delaying full engagement on the matter. For this reason, I am concerned about the timescale that has been set out. We should have been able to deal with this issue, including by means of referendum, within 18 months of the general election. The election was held almost six months ago and once the citizens' assembly has been established, a further 12 months has been set out for completing the process. I do not understand the reason for such a long timescale, especially as the Government has not given a clear commitment to act on the recommendations of the assembly. In theory, this process could be stretched out for a further two or two and a half years. This is highly unsatisfactory and some clarity is needed in this regard.

The Constitutional Convention was relatively successful and worked well in the main. The problem with the convention was that not all of its recommendations were taken on board by the Government or dealt with expeditiously. We must learn from that experience.

I will discuss briefly the four issues selected for consideration by the citizens' assembly. While the first, the eighth amendment, is critical, I wonder from where on earth the third and fourth issues came. There is no pressing need for a fixed-term parliament and I have no idea what is meant by the reference to "the manner in which referenda are held". Why are we not using this opportunity to deal with some of the constitutional issues that arise time after time in the House? Surely these issues should take precedence. The two matters that come to mind are the property rights enshrined in the Constitution, which are spoken of as a barrier to tackling many issues related to property - including upward-only rent reviews - and the need to quickly address the Equal Status Act in respect of access to schools.

There is an onus on the Government to build confidence in this process. This will mean giving a clear commitment that everything will be done in an open and transparent manner, that the budget of the citizens' assembly will not be an issue and that the selection of the panels and chairperson will be done in a fully transparent and open manner. As I indicated, the timescale provided is also an issue. The Government should at least give a cast-iron commitment to take immediate action on foot of any recommendation that is made by the citizens' assembly. These steps must be taken to build confidence.

On behalf of the Green Party, I express support for the removal of the eighth amendment of the Constitution. We look forward to the establishment of a citizens' assembly as a mechanism for helping to deliver a referendum that will enable Irish people to decide on this complex and divisive issue. We should, in so far as is possible, allow Members to vote on the issue as they see fit and in accordance with their conscience. We should also leave the final decision on the matter to the Irish people.

It is useful to have a citizens' assembly to work out some of the mechanisms we must consider before presenting a referendum on the eighth amendment to the people. The assembly should also consider what legislative arrangements should be introduced following a referendum, depending on its outcome. My personal view is that it should be primarily the responsibility of an expectant mother and her doctor to try to work out what is the appropriate way to deal with a pregnancy, particularly where the pregnancy is in difficulty. We should provide significant support to women who are in such circumstances. We must also be careful as to the type of legislative arrangements we introduce. At this stage, more than 30 years since the amendment was introduced, it is clear that it has not served us well. Women are still travelling to the United Kingdom and it is not right that we have failed to address the issue and look after mothers in this country. I hope the citizens' assembly will be able to fulfil this responsibility.

I agree with Deputy Shortall that the citizens' assembly should conclude its deliberations relatively quickly and hope the Government takes this message on board.

The Green Party amendment proposes that the citizens' assembly consider the issue of climate change. I referred to this issue earlier today. We must engage with citizens in different ways to ensure they become engaged with the issue of climate change. A citizens' assembly does not necessarily discuss only constitutional issues. We should use this format in a range of innovative ways, including to examine how Ireland could become a leader in tackling climate change.

I welcome the motion. I, too, was a member of the Constitutional Convention, which was established shortly after I was elected for the first time. My involvement in the convention was probably one of the most enjoyable experiences I had in the past five years because it allowed me to appreciate the views of citizens who were debating issues and arguing with a politicians in a normal setting. Ultimately, democracy won out every Sunday that the convention met, a consensus was formed and its recommendations were put to the Houses.

I accept the criticism that some issues that some issues that should have been dealt with have not been included in the remit of the citizens' assembly. However, it is a little bizarre - perhaps it is simply a reflection of the make-up of this Dáil - to have some speakers accuse the Government of using the citizens' assembly as a mechanism to avoid dealing with the elephant in the room, namely, the eighth amendment, and others argue that we are using the assembly to fast-track dealing with the eighth amendment. This mechanism is being established to have a reasonable conversation against the backdrop of the unreasonable conversations that occurred every time abortion was mentioned in recent years.

While the issue may be clear-cut for some Deputies, they do not speak for me because I do not share the view that we should repeal the eighth amendment and allow legislation to take its course without replacing it with something. We need to have a conversation with families about diagnoses of fatal foetal abnormalities. We need to have a conversation about women who have medical issues or have found themselves in the horrendous position of being pregnant as a result of rape or incest. We also need to have a conversation with citizens about the thousands of women who leave the country to have abortions every year. In my humble opinion, we must have these conversations before holding a referendum on the eighth amendment. I would like to bring people with us, rather than lecturing them about what we believe they should be asked. The citizens' assembly is a means of having a conversation before holding a referendum on the eighth amendment.

The Government will accept the amendment tabled by the Green Party. The citizens' assembly is a reasonable mechanism for discussing serious issues such as climate change and our 2020 targets. In trying to implement policy, however, this Government and its two immediate predecessors met considerable resistance from Irish people because we did not have proper conversations with communities or engage with citizens and human beings, as Deputy Coppinger stated. There is significant opposition to wind energy because we took the wrong approach to the issue. The citizens' assembly presents us with an opportunity to have rational conversations on our 2020 targets and engage people in the discussion about how we will achieve them using technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal energy. We must have this discussion in a rational setting as opposed to trying to impose measures on communities.

This is an opportunity to talk in a rational setting about wind, solar and geothermal energy and all the options available to us as opposed to trying to enforce things in communities. That is an important list and we should add to it because it is not an exhaustive list. Some things have been issued but one of the caveats is that other things can be issued as they come up. As the Sinn Féin amendment has indicated, it would be important for us to talk about a united Ireland and how we actually view how we are going to get there against the backdrop of the Good Friday Agreement and the fact the Brexit vote has been successful in the United Kingdom in recent weeks.

For me, this is a must. We will be supporting it and we will be asking as many people in the House to support it. This will allow us to have the Electoral (Amendment)(No. 2) Bill passed tomorrow in order that we can get the citizens' assembly established in September. I agree that there is no need for 12 month to pass. Once the first issue has been dealt with, the report should come back to Government and the House. At that stage we can discuss it and decide what we are going to do next. We can report back as topics go by to allow the whole process to be finished within the coming 12 months. When issues come up, we can address them as a parliament. Then, if it is the will of this Parliament to have a referendum, let us decide what we are having the referendum on, what it will look like and what the legislation will look like afterwards. Let us do it. There is no reason we cannot do it in the first half of next year.

I am asking for support. I commend the motion to the House and I am looking for as much support as we can get today and tomorrow to get this passed and to get the citizens' assembly established.

My colleague, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan, has outlined the Fianna Fáil position on this Bill. I do not propose to repeat the reasons he has given but I will make some general points.

I acknowledge that the citizens' assembly model has been used previously with the Constitutional Convention. There are a number of changes in this new model which I believe are regrettable, in particular the absence of political representation and the North-South dimension. I imagine any demographic of 100 people would quite possibly include some type of political representation, for example, councillors from within an area, and not necessarily Deputies or Senators. It is wrong to exclude them. However, these changes are not enough to justify absolutely opposing it.

It is fair to say that the previous convention was undermined by the lack of Government action in the area. Several reports were neglected and remain untouched. The assembly should not be reduced to the role of a talking shop because the issues involved are far too important. Furthermore, the convention should not be used as a replacement for the people's Chamber. In my view, Dáil Éireann is absolutely the people's Chamber. This is where we represent people's views and opinions. I have no doubt that each of the 158 Deputies get the opinions and feelings of people on all these important issues daily and weekly. We have to be the primary focus in respect of this. Ultimately, the Dáil must wrestle with the key constitutional issues before a referendum and this is where it should happen. The mechanism should not be allowed to become a first choice of any government but rather an occasional infrequent tool for specific issues.

The key issue is the eighth amendment. My party, Fianna Fáil, is operating a freedom of conscience vote on this most contentious issue before the assembly. We were the first party to do so and we absolutely recognise the depth of the issues involved. I believe we should proceed straight to a referendum as opposed to having to wait for a citizens' assembly. The original proposal from Fianna Fáil was for a judge-led commission to confront the issue from an independent perspective. The way the other issues are being dealt with smacks of an afterthought rather than giving those issues serious consideration. Again, this should not be the case. However, we are willing to help to build a consensus approach to the issue and we will abstain on the Government proposals rather than oppose them. The Fianna Fáil Party will work to ensure these issues are dealt with through free and fair debate.

I urge the Government representative in the House to acknowledge the broad consensus in the House for the holding of the referendum on repealing the eighth amendment. Recently, we had a debate on legislation which sought only to provide an additional choice to women seeking terminations for medical reasons. It was the choice to avoid travelling to England, to avoid being subjected to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. That evening and the day following, we had a very respectful and honest debate. Many in the Chamber and others watching outside were moved by the personal contributions, in particular those of Deputy Boyd Barrett and others. In the course of the debate we heard many voices in support of repealing the eighth amendment. The answer from the Government benches to the calls for a referendum was not "No". In fact, I believe it is rather obvious that there is broad consensus on this issue. The broad consensus is that we need a referendum. The answer from the Government side was that we should do the right thing, but not now. I realise that my granny is not the only granny to have said it, but it is never the wrong time to do the right thing. Therefore, I echo the call from an Teachta Adams earlier this evening. A referendum on the eighth amendment is urgent and we should not delay. We should proceed to the referendum as soon as possible. Kicking this important issue into a citizens' assembly is nothing more than a delaying tactic, pure and simple. Women know that this is a delaying tactic. I know they know because they tell me so. They know this is a serious issue affecting women and they know that yet again it has been put on the long finger. If there is broad consensus on the need for a referendum and it can proceed without delay, then all we are lacking is the political will to move it forward.

I question the reason for the exclusion of political representatives from this assembly. Although I was not a member of the Constitutional Convention, I understand from my colleagues that those politicians involved contributed much to the work of the convention and were an asset rather than an impediment to its work. What has changed in the meantime? Why was a decision taken to exclude us? There must be and should be involvement from the very people who will respond to the outcome of this assembly. There is a role for political representatives working hand-in-hand with citizens from throughout the island. We will be missing out if we simply ignore this.

Why are we moving to this now when so many of the recommendations of the previous convention were simply abandoned? Surely the time has come and gone for a referendum on the position of women in the home. Despite the recommendation of the previous convention, we still have not had a referendum or a wider discussion on the so-called position of the woman in the home. While we are failing to grasp the opportunities presented to us by the previous Constitutional Convention in terms of the all-island dimension and the political involvement, we are rushing to hold yet another convention or assembly of sorts.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am fond of quoting my grandmother. However, I will instead quote my husband's grandfather. My husband often quotes this line. He maintains it was the best advice he was ever given - would that he heeded it, said she, looking at the unmowed lawn. He said that we should always finish what we start. The work of the previous convention is not finished, yet here we are seeking to start the process again. We have not finished what we started and we are preparing to do it all again. Government party Deputies will understand why people think this is something of a cosmetic exercise. They will understand why women feel insulted by the fact a discussion on the eighth amendment is getting kicked into another assembly when they see the inaction that arose from the last one.

Notwithstanding my reservations, if we are to have an assembly, then we need to grasp any opportunity to make it as good as it can be. Amendments have been proposed this evening. I urge Deputies to support the Sinn Féin amendments to provide for a more robust and deliberative forum and to allow for more issues to be discussed and addressed than the limited number put forward by the Government.

Tonight's debate and the motion before us read like an exercise in political cynicism of the deepest kind. It is the kind of cute, clever politics that ultimately leaves people and particularly women cheated. The eighth amendment arose as a consequence of a particularly clever piece of politics by Charlie Haughey in respect of his opponents in Fine Gael. The eighth amendment should never have been put to the people. All of those eminent legal and medical advisers at the time who said it was an inappropriate thing to be the subject of an amendment to the Constitution in the way it was framed were overruled as a consequence of the kind of cynical exercise it became. The people of Ireland in their wisdom having heard the arguments voted for it. What is now needed - nothing will gainsay this - is an opportunity in the reasonably near future as soon as possible for the people to vote on the issues pertaining to the eighth amendment.

While the consideration of the eighth amendment is the only reason for this exercise, it is buried in a number of other much less controversial items to be examined. These include the challenges and opportunities facing older people; the notion of fixed-term parliaments which exist in many countries and is hardly terribly controversial; and the manner in which referenda are held. To one degree or another all those proposals, while significant and important, are perfectly capable of being debated and decided upon in the people's assembly, which is Dáil Éireann. Instead they are mixed in with a proposal on the eighth amendment.

As a consequence, we are kicking the can down the road on the issues relating to the eighth amendment. We had a very emotional and difficult debate two weeks ago over a Bill introduced by Deputy Wallace, which was pretty much a carbon copy of a Bill introduced in the last Dáil by Deputy Clare Daly. Notwithstanding that it was very well meant, it did absolutely nothing to address the issue of fatal foetal abnormalities. Was that Bill capable of working? I think almost everybody in this House would have voted to solve the dilemma of mothers and fathers affected by that harrowing situation as they try to reach a decision about what to do.

This is an exercise in the deepest kind of political cynicism. My guess is that many younger people, in particular, who probably were not voters at the time of the referendum on the eighth amendment, will see through this cynicism and see it for what it is.

The proposal is to draw a representative sample of 100 people. I do not know how this polling company will work. However, when they telephone and ask individuals to use their wisdom to make a recommendation on the eighth amendment, it is hard to see how people other than people with an interest on either side of the argument would be willing to take part.

We also have an expert advisory group.

I ask the Deputy to conclude, please.

Rather than the advisory group, I think as a society we are ready to-----

-----use the health committee and if people feel it would be appropriate the justice committee. We should invite all of those doctors, who have such enormous expertise in the area-----

-----and who are acknowledged experts both in Ireland and internationally, to come before the health and-or justice committee to talk through the different arguments over the eighth amendment.

We should then go forward and prepare to trust our citizens and to put it to the vote of our citizens-----

-----so that in their wisdom they can decide how we deal with it.

However, I have seldom seen-----

-----such a cynical political exercise and it ill becomes the Government to offer this to the people of Ireland and in particular to demean the Dáil by this resolution.

I call Deputy Bríd Smith, who has five minutes.

As somebody like Deputy Burton who believes in equality, I will take about seven minutes. Is that all right?

I cannot believe some of what I hear in this House. I will give my impressions of what has happened tonight. Deputies may remember an episode of "Fawlty Towers" where Basil argues with German people and says, "Don't mention the war". He eventually says, "You started it; you invaded Poland". This is exactly what this is like. "Don't mention the war" is not in it because we now have this, plus all the amendments that cover everything, including the issue of an ageing population, whom the last Government lashed into by cutting the fuel allowance and the phone allowance. The previous Fianna Fáil and Green Party Government cut their medical cards and the Government before that made them work an extra three years. This Government is about to close their post offices.

The citizens' assembly will also discuss fixed-term parliaments, which means that if Deputies do not survive this term, they may have to fix their arrangements between parties rather than going before the people in an election. The Green Party wants to bring in climate change. Sinn Féin wants to bring in political reform, Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement and Irish unity.

The elephant in the room is the eighth amendment. That is why we are discussing this citizens' assembly and yet it is not being treated with the seriousness and urgency it deserves. When we ignore mentioning the eighth amendment, we are ignoring our history. We are ignoring Savita Halappanavar - who will not get to vote in any of these referendums - Miss X, Miss Y, Miss C, the 12 women who travel abroad every day and the countless young women - we are not sure how many - who wait for the postman or postwoman every morning to deliver a package that contains an abortion pill, risking being sentenced to 14 years on prison, courtesy of the last Government. It was a sentence inserted om the last legislation on the area, for which the Labour Party voted. Let us do away with all the hypocrisy and all the lies, and let us get the record straight.

I did not snigger at Deputy Mattie McGrath earlier, but I laughed at the language he used such as a "free for all". He seemed to believe if the people decided in a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment, we would be going into shops and saying, "I'll have that one, that one and that one", in other words abortion on demand. It entirely misunderstands women's perspective, what goes on in their lives and what their issues are.

Would we seriously, for example, discuss having a citizens' assembly on a procedure that would help men live healthier lives, give them freedom of choice and probably even stop them from losing their lives? No, we would not. Even if we were to discuss it, would we throw in Brexit, the North, CO2 emissions, the whole nine yards? No, we would not. What we are doing here is penalising women again and denying them bodily autonomy.

I lived through 33 years of the eighth amendment having campaigned against it. An entire generation of women and young men have not had a say in this and they are very anxious to have their say. They want to vote on getting rid of the eighth amendment and there may be others who want to vote to keep it. However, we should give them that opportunity. An old one like me has no right to deny future generations that right, nor do most people in this House who are my age and older, and indeed those who are younger. If we trust people, as we did in the referendum on same-sex marriage, we might get a result we do not like or maybe we will get a result we like. However, the point is to give this generation and the one behind it the opportunity to vote.

I will make a comment on the make-up of the citizens' assembly.

If the electoral register is going to be used for a lottery-style random selection of citizens, migrant workers will be excluded. This point has already been made by Deputy Coppinger. I reckon that a whole cohort of people who may ultimately register to vote in a referendum on the repeal of the eighth amendment, but who are not currently registered because they do not believe the system relates to their needs or their futures, will also be excluded. I refer to people who, like the 60,000 people who registered to vote in advance of the referendum on same-sex marriage, feel alienated from the system.

I do not believe this proposal is reflective of society or of the needs of the people of this country. It would certainly serve to hold back women. We have proposed amendment No. 2 to take the elephant out of the room. We want to stop the "Fawlty Towers" phenomenon of trying not to mention the war. We believe that rather than using repulsive methods that involve kicking for touch and getting rid of the issues that really matter to people, the Government should go for the jugular by passing legislation that will allow our citizens to vote on whether they want to repeal the eighth amendment.

As a young woman, I lived through the Ann Lovett case, the Kerry babies case and the case of Sheila Hodgers, who died in Drogheda hospital. We used to say we could not allow such things to happen again, but they have happened again and will happen again unless we deal with this issue. There is an urgency about this. The eighth amendment has been in the Constitution for 33 years. It is not like we are asking to be given another three months to have a conversation. That is what the Minister has said. We think we have had the conversation. People have made up their minds, so we should give them a vote on it.

The only other Member who indicated that he wanted to contribute is Deputy Ó Cuív. As he has left the Chamber, I ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, to bring the debate to a conclusion.

I will address that in my concluding remarks.

Just to clarify, are we discussing the amendments now?

No. The Minister of State has five minutes to reply, and then we will make a decision on the amendment proposed by Deputy Adams.

The Minister of State will talk on the amendments, but nobody else will be able to do so.

Deputies were at liberty to speak on all the amendments throughout the debate. However, no other amendments can be moved until Deputy Adams's amendment has been disposed of.

I will address the issues in the amendment that has been proposed by Sinn Féin.

Should I wait until after I have spoken for five minutes before doing so?

I would like to address a couple of issues that have arisen during the debate. Deputies have expressed concern about how the citizens’ assembly will work. We have also heard a great deal of praise for the Constitutional Convention, which worked well in certain areas. I understand that the recommendations it made in certain areas are still outstanding. This new assembly will not impede that process, which is continuing. The recommendations made by the Constitutional Convention can still be dealt with by the Government. This proposal does not affect that. It will not change that. The process that was used for the Constitutional Convention worked. I would say it helped to bring about the successful passing of the marriage referendum. I think most people would agree with that. I think it contributed to that process. It certainly enabled the referendum to happen in the first place. This kind of process has worked in the past. A similar approach is being taken on this occasion, although no politicians will be included in the citizens’ assembly. We talk enough in here. The assembly will involve a similar approach. The same method will be used to choose members. I know people have concerns about which part of the electorate will be used, or about who is or is not a citizen. The same process was used previously. It worked quite well and quite effectively. We are recommending that it should be used again here. That is what we are trying to do. I hope we are clear on that.

Deputies have questioned whether the timeframe is appropriate. Quite a tight timeframe is being set out here. It is hoped to have the motion we are discussing tonight passed through both Houses this week. It is hoped that the citizens' assembly will be up and running by October. Thereafter, it will have 12 months to report. As I said at the outset, 12 months is the maximum timeframe it is being given to report on the four issues that are mentioned in the motion I have proposed tonight. Other issues might be added to its remit during the process. As the Minister of State, Deputy Regina Doherty, said, there is nothing in what we are proposing that precludes the assembly from coming back with reports on individual items as they are ready. It does not have to be 12 months. The reference in this motion to "one year" does not mean it will take 12 months. That is not what is envisaged. That is not the reason for the reference to "one year". If I remember correctly, reports on various elements came back from the Constitutional Convention after being discussed as they were ready. It is not a case of kicking everything down the Swanee as well. That is not what we are trying to do.

The 99 citizen members will be selected on the basis of their entitlement to vote in referendums. They will be selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society. If the citizens' assembly is going to make recommendations for changes in the Constitution, it makes sense that its members should be drawn from the electorate that is entitled to vote in referendums. I take Deputy Bríd Smith's point that some people might not put their names on the electoral register until after the assembly has completed its work. While I accept that, I remind her that we used the same formula to choose the participants in the Constitutional Convention. People registered thereafter as well. That did not cause a great difficulty. I think the Deputy was happy with the result in that case. I do not think her concern in this regard will be borne out. We have to make a recommendation and go with it. Regardless of what method we choose, someone will have an issue with it. I think the method we have chosen will cover what we are seeking to do. I should also mention that 90,000 people from all over the world have received Irish citizenship in Irish citizenship ceremonies in the past five years. I expect that this development will be reflected in the electorate that votes in referendums as well. One would hope that all citizens would register to vote. I think I have dealt with that concern as well as I possibly can.

I will try to deal with the Sinn Féin amendment before we run out of time. The amendment proposes that four items should be added to the agenda of the citizens’ assembly. This would seriously add to its work. I do not think it would be realistic to give the assembly these additional responsibilities without extending its timeframe, which might cause delays in dealing with some of the issues the assembly is being asked to consider. As regards the items suggested, the last Government carried out a significant programme of reform. It provided for a radical reform of the Freedom of Information Acts, banned corporate donations and introduced the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 and the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. It carried out a significant programme of Dáil reform and commissioned a report on Seanad reform. Of course, the current Dáil has made extensive changes in the way the Dáil operates. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the last Government implemented a number of significant recommendations made by the Constitutional Convention and held two referendums in that context. The current programme for Government commits the Government to holding three more such referendums.

Northern Ireland remains a key priority for this Government, for example in dealing with the consequences of the result of the UK referendum on EU membership. It will be important to make the best possible use of the institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement to ensure we continue to preserve the benefits of the peace process in the North in this changed context. At the North-South Ministerial Council plenary summit in Dublin Castle on 4 July last, it was agreed to work together to ensure Northern Ireland's interests are protected and the importance of North-South co-operation is fully recognised in any new arrangements which emerge from negotiations. Ten specific actions were agreed to optimise North-South joint planning and engagement on key issues arising from the UK referendum result. This will include a full audit of key North-South work programmes to establish risks and likely impacts arising from the UK's planned withdrawal from the EU. The British-Irish Council will play an important role in light of the referendum result. When the Taoiseach attends a meeting of the council in Cardiff on 22 July next, he will meet representatives of all the devolved administrations in the UK to discuss the implications of the referendum result throughout these islands. The Government believes there is a need for the widest possible conversation on the implications of the referendum result for Ireland, both North and South, and for North-South relations. It will continue to explore options to achieve this in a way that is not divisive.

As I said earlier, the proposed composition of the citizens’ assembly is aimed at reflecting the views of citizens who are entitled to vote in referendums. I reiterate that the electorate will decide the outcome of any referendum that emerges from the recommendations of the assembly, which will be able to invite and accept submissions from interested parties. Members of the Oireachtas will have an opportunity to make their views known when the reports from the citizens’ assembly come before the Houses. The assembly's report on the eighth amendment will first be considered by an Oireachtas committee before being debated by the full House. The Sinn Féin amendment would impose a two month limit on the assembly's deliberations on the eighth amendment and further limits on the consideration by this House of the assembly’s report on that issue. I would be concerned that this would be too short. The assembly will deal with the eighth amendment as its first item, which makes sense. That report can be brought back here well in advance of the 12 month timeline. I hope the Sinn Féin Deputies will understand and accept the reasons we cannot accept the amendment they have proposed. The House will deal with the other amendments after this one has been disposed of.

There are 15 minutes remaining for this debate, but no one else is offering. Therefore, I ask Deputy Adams whether he intends to press his party's amendment.

Tá mé chun an leasú seo a bhrú chun cinn.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 20; Níl, 60.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jonathan O'Brien and Aengus Ó Snodaigh; Níl, Deputies Jim Daly and Regina Doherty.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

(a) To insert the following after "That Dáil Eireann":

"will immediately agree to introduce legislation to allow for a Referendum to repeal article 40.3.3 of the Constitution before 1st December, 2016;" and

(b) To delete the following after "Houses of the Oireachtas":

"(i) the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution;"

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise? I remind Deputies in the lobbies that Deputies claiming a division should please rise in their places.

Deputies Mick Barry, Thomas P. Broughan, Joan Collins, Ruth Coppinger, Clare Daly, Paul Murphy, Thomas Pringle, Bríd Smith and Mick Wallace rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen I declare the amendment defeated. The names of the Deputies who claimed a division will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

(a) To delete the following after “appointed by the Government”:

“— 99 citizens entitled to vote at a referendum, randomly selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society;”

and replace with:

“— 99 persons, including those whose names appear on the electoral register for local elections, to be randomly selected making no distinction to nationality or citizenship status and, on the issue of Repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, the majority of whom shall be women between the ages of 18 and 50;” and

(b) To delete, after the words “event not later than”, the words “one year” and to substitute the words “three months” in their place.”

Amendment put.

Deputies

Vótáil.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Mick Barry, Ruth Coppinger, Paul Murphy and Bríd Smith rose.

As fewer than ten Deputies have risen, I declare the question defeated. The names of the Deputies who claimed a division will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 5:

To delete all words after “notes that” and substitute the following:

“— membership of the Assembly will consist of 100 persons as follows:

— a Chairperson to be appointed by the Government;

— 66 citizens entitled to vote at a referendum, randomly selected so as to be broadly representative of Irish society; and

— 33 members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, so as to be impartially representative of the Houses;

— substitutes may be appointed subject to the selection criteria above, who will be entitled to contribute to the proceedings and vote in their own name;

— the Assembly will agree its own rules of procedure for the effective conduct of its business in as economical a manner as possible;

— the Assembly will first make a report and recommendation on the matter set out at (i) above to the Houses of the Oireachtas before 30th November, 2016;

— the Assembly will report and make recommendations to the Houses of the Oireachtas on each remaining matter as soon as it has completed its deliberations, but in any event not later than one year from the date of the first Assembly meeting;

— the Assembly will also be asked to consider such other matters as may be referred to it;

— an Expert Advisory Group will be established to assist the work of the Assembly in terms of preparing information and advice;

— the mechanism for the selection of members of the Expert Advisory Group should be transparent, open to scrutiny and verifiably independent;

— the Assembly may invite and accept submissions from interested bodies and will seek such expert advice as it considers desirable;

— all matters before the Assembly will be determined by a majority of the votes of members present and voting, other than the Chairperson who will have a casting vote in the case of an equality of votes; and

— the Government will provide in the Houses of the Oireachtas 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, which shall take place no later than four months after the receipt by the House of the Oireachtas of the Assembly’s report and recommendation.”

We are pressing the amendment, but it is described inaccurately by the sheet that the Government has submitted, which does not deal accurately with what the amendment seeks to do, namely, to apply to the assembly the recommendations of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties that Members of the Oireachtas be part of the body and report back in a tighter timeframe. The Government's response therefore does not even deal with those issues. The intention behind the amendment is to base the assembly on the same model as the Constitutional Convention in order that Deputies and Senators would be included, rather than a separate stage.

I thank Deputy Daly for that clarification.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 52.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Zappone, Katherine.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace; Níl, Deputies Jim Daly and Regina Doherty.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

To insert the following after “and vote in their own name”:

“— each member of the citizens’ assembly must declare membership-affiliation of any organisation or group that has campaigned for the retention or the repeal of the eighth amendment of the Constitution;”

Amendment put.

Will the Deputies claiming a division please rise?

Deputies Michael Collins, Noel Grealish, Danny Healy-Rae and Mattie McGrath rose.

As fewer than ten Members have risen, I declare the amendment lost. The names of the Deputies claiming the division will be recorded in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Dáil.

Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 1:

To insert the following after “the manner in which referenda are held”:

“(v) how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change;”

Amendment put and declared carried.
Question put: "That the motion, as amended, be agreed to."
The Dáil divided: Tá, 53; Níl, 25.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Canney, Seán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Rock, Noel.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Nolan, Carol.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Wallace, Mick.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Jim Daly and Regina Doherty; Níl, Deputies Clare Daly and Mick Wallace.
Question declared carried.