Q1. What is the Citizens’ Assembly?

A. The Citizens’ Assembly was a body formed from the citizens of Ireland to deliberate on a number of issues which were referred to it by the Houses of the Oireachtas. It broadly followed the model used for the Convention on the Constitution which ran from 2012-2014.

This model provides a platform for a cross-section of the public to hear presentations from experts and civil society groups and to engage in rational and reasoned discussion, and to then make recommendations to the State on the options available.

The Assembly was asked to look at the following issues:

        1. the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution;
        2. how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population;
        3. fixed term parliaments;
        4. the manner in which referenda are held;
        5. how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change.
Q2. Who is the Chairperson?

A. On 27 July 2016, the Government appointed the Honourable Mary Laffoy to be the Chairperson of the Assembly.

Q3. Who are the Members?

A. There were 100 Members of the Assembly, including the Chairperson. Members were chosen at random to represent the views of the people of Ireland, and were broadly representative of society as reflected in the Census, including age, gender, social class, regional spread etc. They must also have been on the electoral register to vote in a referendum.

Q4. How can I apply to be a Member?

A. As the selection process is completely random, there is no way for an individual to apply to become a Member.

Q5. Is there any other data available on the 99 Members?

A. As provided for in the Resolution approving the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly, the 99 citizens and substitutes must be entitled to vote at a Referendum.

While the names and general areas where Members come from were made available on the Assembly’s website, other personal details of the Members were treated in strictest confidence.

Q6. What nationalities are the Members?

A. As provided for in the Resolution approving the establishment of the Citizens’ Assembly, the 99 citizens and substitutes must be entitled to vote at a Referendum and as such, must be Irish Citizens.

While the names and general areas where Members come from were made available on the Assembly’s website, other personal details of the Members were treated in strictest confidence.

Q7. Why are members of advocacy groups excluded from Assembly membership?

A. Prior to the commencement of the recruitment process for Members of the Citizens’ Assembly, it was decided that members of advocacy groups on the topics to be considered, would be excluded from membership of the Assembly.

The rationale for this decision was based on the fact that interest groups will be invited to make presentations/submissions on the matters concerning them.

In order to establish this information, during the recruitment process all potential Members were asked if were they currently, had they been or did they intend to act in an advocacy role for any interest or lobby group currently campaigning on any of the issues to be considered by the Assembly. This was asked of potential Members again during the validation phone call with REDC who carried out recruitment on our behalf. Any potential Members who answered yes to these questions were excluded from the process.

However, Members were not be excluded for having previously expressed views on issues before the Assembly. The Assembly by its random makeup may include Members who have views on either side of a debate. Others may not yet have a view. These variations in opinion are to be expected and are part of the value of the Assembly.

For further information on membership of the Assembly, please click here

Q8. Why were overseas people not invited to be Members?

A. The Oireachtas Resolution approving the Establishment of the Citizens' Assembly provided that membership of the Assembly will consist of 100 persons as follows: — a Chairperson to be appointed by the Government; and 99 citizens.  These 99 citizens should be entitled to vote at a referendum.

If you are an Irish citizen living abroad you cannot be entered on the register of electors. This means that you cannot vote in an election or referendum here in Ireland. The only exception to this is those with a postal vote that may be away from the State – mostly this would be Irish officials on duty abroad (and their spouses) and army personnel (who are required to vote by post in any event).

A call for submissions from representative groups, citizen organisations and members of the public, outlining their views in advance of Assembly meetings has been made in the national press. This process is important in the context of allowing the wider public, members of advocacy groups and those living overseas to have an input into the Citizens’ Assembly process.

Q9. Will the Assembly be accessible for people with disabilities?

A. In briefing REDC before recruitment commenced, the Citizens’ Assembly Secretariat outlined the requirement to be compliant with Sections 27 and 28 of the Disability Act 2005, and asked that all recruiters be made aware if its provisions in this regard. This included making it clear to the recruiters that the Assembly would ensure that all its working material would be fully accessible in the event that a person with a disability was randomly selected.

Members were chosen at random from the electoral register and are broadly representative of demographic variables as reflected in the Census including age, gender, social class and regional spread.  Interviewers recruited door to door in selected sampling points across the country.  These points were selected in order to be representative of the population as a whole, based on the latest census information.

The Assembly Secretariat made every effort to ensure that the services are accessible and responsive, as far as is practicable and appropriate, to all people with disabilities. In this regard, all public proceedings of the Assembly were streamed live with a sign language interpreter.

Q10. How will the meetings be run?

A. The point of the Assembly is to provide for informed discussion and debate, to allow all sides of the argument to be heard and to hear the opinions of the Members. Generally speaking the format for the meetings was as follows:

  • Introductory remarks by the Chairperson
  • Expert presentations
  • Presentations from civil society and advocacy groups
  • Consideration of submissions by Members of the public
  • Question and Answer Sessions and Debates
  • Roundtable discussions

Following these discussions, all matters before the Assembly were voted upon and recommendations based on the majority view of the Members made to the Houses of the Oireachtas. 

The Government will then provide 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.

Q11. Do Members get paid for attendance?

A. Members were not be paid for their time in taking part in the Assembly. Accommodation for the Members was provided for in the hotel where the Assembly is took place and meals were also provided. Travel expenses were also paid.

Q12. Where will the Assembly be based?

A. The Grand Hotel, Malahide, was selected as the venue for the Assembly’s meetings.

Q13. Who may attend the Assembly meetings as an observer?

A. In accordance with the Rules and Procedures of the Assembly, members of the public did not have access to the meetings of the Citizens’ Assembly but the plenary sessions were streamed live online.

However, it was recognised that certain organisations/ individuals may have a legitimate interest in being present at the meetings to observe proceedings first hand.

In light of this, representatives from the following categories were permitted to be present at the plenary sessions of the meetings of the Citizens’ Assembly:

  • Advocacy Groups, Non Governmental Organisations and Religious groups
  • Embassies
  • Political parties
  • Academics
  • Social Partners

More information is available here.

Q14. I just made a submission to the Assembly on the topic of the Eighth Amendment. I am happy for my submission to be made public, but I did not see anywhere to tick "Yes" to agree to this, so I would like to resubmit my submission to ensure it is made public.

A. All documents received by the Assembly Secretariat will be listed on the website and displayed with a name/name of organisation if appropriate. The Citizens’ Assembly reserves the right not to accept a submission if it is deemed offensive or inappropriate.

Q15. I wish to make a submission but my story is personal and private and I do not want my name or details that would identify me published, can you accommodate me?

A. It is intended that all submissions received will be published.  In the case of personal stories and sensitive submissions, all personal data and related identifiable details will be removed or redacted.

Q16. Will other matters be referred to the Assembly?

A. The Oireachtas Resolution approving the Establishment of the Citizens' Assembly states that Dáil Eireann notes that the Assembly will also be asked to consider such other matters as may be referred to it.

As such, it is our understanding that it would be a matter for the Houses of the Oireachtas to refer any additional matters to the Assembly.