A constitutional convention is being set up at the moment which will look at a number of possible amendments, including the electoral system, gay marriage, etc. but rather than consider relatively minor details, why not look at the bigger picture. Should we have a constitution at all?
We seem to have a much more restrictive constitution than other countries. We were the only country to hold a referendum on the Fiscal Treaty - other equally democratic countries were able to ratify the treaty through their parliaments. There are a number of issues where our constitution is quite clearly a hindrance - Children's rights, Upward-only rents and Oireachtas Inquiries to name but a few.
Why do we have to have a referendum on Children's rights? Clearly, there is an overwhelming majority in the Dáil and among the general public for ensuring that children can be protected from abuse. The problem is that the Constitution's protection of the family protects abusive parents. The referendum itself will not be easy to win either - although almost everyone supports the specific intentions of the government, the campaign will inevitably descend into a nasty dishonest mess. One can already visualise the slogans "One call to Childline and your children will be taken away" etc. Imagine how much better it would be if the Dáil could have a rational debate about what is required without having to consider our farcical referendum campaigns.
The constitution also makes it more difficult to deal with the economic crisis with Upward-Only Rent Reviews being a case in point. The Constitution's protection of property rights makes it impossible to alter these contracts, regardless of the damage that is being done to the economy. Suppose the Dáil could pass a law that would automatically invalidate all Upward-Only reviews, would that not be better?
At present, the Oireachtas cannot summon witnesses and compel them to appear at inquiries, etc. This makes it very difficult for the Dáil to conduct investigations, etc. A recent referendum to allow the Oireachtas to conduct such inquiries was defeated (although subsequent polls showed that most people actually supported the proposal). The referendum was defeated primarily by the intervention of a group of former Attorneys-General (it is not only the likes of Cóir that engage in scare-mongering).
Perhaps we should have one last referendum which will simply convert the Constitution into law, which can then be repealed by the Oireachtas as it desires. Let us give the Dáil the power to represent us. Yes, it would mean the Dáil being an "elective dictatorship" like the British House of Commons but what is the problem with that? Look at the Tribunals lasting over a decade and their astronomical costs - a Dáil unhampered by the Constitution could have organised much speedier and more efficient inquiries. It is time for the constitution to go, or to be replaced with a tiny document that basically guarantees free speech and regular free and fair elections.
Bás don Bhunreacht!