Establishment of the Assembly
The Programme for a Partnership Government committed the Government to ‘the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly, within six months and without participation by politicians, with a mandate to look at a limited number of key issues over an extended time period.’
Extension to Assembly Term
The Assembly's terms of reference stated that consideration of the five topics would be completed "not later than one year from the date of the first Assembly meeting", i.e. November 2016.
It became clear that it would not be possible to consider all topics within the one year time frame given the addition of a second weekend for both the second and third topics considered by the Assembly, how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population and how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change respectively.
The Assembly received an extension on 3 October 2017 from the Houses of the Oireachtas in order to complete its consideration of the remaining two topics by the end of March 2018. A second extension was required and received from the Houses of the Oireachtas due to the postponement of the March 2018 meeting because of Storm Emma.
Terms of Reference
The Assembly’s terms of reference were agreed by the Houses of the Oireachtas in July 2016.
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;
(iv) the manner in which referenda are held; and
(v) how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change; and
- 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.”
Click here to read the transcript of the Dáil and Seanad debates.