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  1. #1
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    The Reinstate Article 48 "Direct Democracy" Initiative

    I recently, entirely by chance, came across the "Reinstate Article 48" www.reinstate48.ie campaign website. This describes itself as: "an initiative to restore direct democracy to the constitution". This "Article 48" refers to an article in the original Free State constitution that permitted citizen initiatives, i.e. a sufficient number of voter signatures would allow ordinary citizens to directly trigger a referendum on a proposed bill or constitutional amendment. That provision was later deleted from the constitution (the Free State constitution remained alterable by parliamentary majority all through its history). There's a short 5 minute video of Diarmaid Ferriter on the website (his mug displayed prominently below! ) giving some of the historical background to this article 48 provision:



    This R48 campaign seems to be directed at the upcoming GE. Voters can publicly sign a "pledge" on the website (just over 3000 signed up so far). There's also a list of GE candidates (19 so far) that have promised to support the introduction of a citizens initiative mechanism into the constitution if elected.

    IMO there's much to like about their campaign. It concerns a topic that would be very much after my own heart. Inserting a citizens initiative mechanism into the constitution would be at the very top of my own list of desired political reforms. If that could possibly be achieved, then IMO much else reform-wise would inevitably follow. Their slogan is snappy. They've kept their message simple and streamlined. Article 48 of the original Free State constitution would be a reasonable way of implementing citizen initiatives. It also has a nice historical resonance (relevant as we approach 1916 and other centenaries).

    However, it was only by chance that I even heard of this initiative (and I'm actually quite interested in the topic of political reform). While there seems to have been a bit of traction on social media, it seems to have flown below most people's radars.

    Another concern I had is that most of the signed up GE candidates are in the Green Party; not all are though (there are independents and People Before Profit candidates there too). I would usually myself give the Green Party a preference (generally not my highest ones though) because of some of their environmental policies and also because their political reform policies tend to be better developed than most other parties. I can't say I'd be a great fan of their policies in many other areas though. The committee for R48 claims to be not politically aligned. I actually personally knew who two of the people on it were (and knew that to be true). Nonetheless, I contacted them and found out some more about the background to the campaign. It would indeed seem to be that case that those organizing this aren't involved with political parties (and not the Green Party either). This all seems to be a purely voluntary effort run on a shoe string. They did say, though, that they are considering doing some fundraising in the near future and might produce some election posters for their campaign.

    IMO anything that raises awareness amongst the electorate of the history, mechanisms and benefits of citizen-led initiatives (direct democracy) can only be a good thing. It's a pity, though, that this initiative has only gotten a fairly modest amount of momentum behind it so far. I could very easily have gone up to the GE totally oblivious of this. Plus there isn't even a great deal of time left in the run up to the GE either. I suppose, though, that there's a fair chance the next Dáil will not last too long (so they might well get another bite at the cherry in the medium term).

    Citizen initiatives/direct democracy are, of course, not everyone's cup of tea. But, for those who do like the general idea, visiting the website and signing up to the "Reinstate 48" pledge does seem like a good way of supporting the introduction of citizens initiatives. What do people think? In general, are citizens initiatives are a good or bad idea? What do you think of this particular campaign's approach?
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  2. #2
    james5001 james5001 is offline
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    Great, great video.

    Really showed the anti-democratic nature of the Cumann na nGaedheal government, reinforcing the widely-held belief that there was a much more centralised power structure brought in, in the infancy of the State.
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  3. #3
    james5001 james5001 is offline
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    Also showed how DeValera reneged on the commitment to bring in Direct Democracy.
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  4. #4
    Dame_Enda Dame_Enda is online now
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    Agreed it should be reinstated. On the other hand I think CnG were keen to avoid jeopardising independence by reneging so soon on the Treaty so I see why they revoked it.
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  5. #5
    Victor Meldrew Victor Meldrew is offline
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    What would be a workable signature threshold for a referendum? Assume the bonafides of the sigs could be proven, would they be public?

    Also, Let's say we get a petition to hold a referendum to propose a change in wording (presume the wording would have to be agreed in advance, so no "bait and switch")

    Is there a cooling off period where the wording has enough sigs (after debate necessary) and then we get to reflect.

    If the matter were profound we would do well to act slowly lest it was a knee jerk reaction.

    Neither for or against this. just the workability.

    I both like and am wary of an unfiltered path to change the constitution and the risks of mob rule inherent in this.
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  6. #6
    ted08 ted08 is offline
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    Stupid idea. Maybe we'll have one a month so that all the various lobby groups can get their way. That and never make a right decision that happens to be unpopular.
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  7. #7
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Victor Meldrew View Post
    What would be a workable signature threshold for a referendum? Assume the bonafides of the sigs could be proven, would they be public?

    Also, Let's say we get a petition to hold a referendum to propose a change in wording (presume the wording would have to be agreed in advance, so no "bait and switch")

    Is there a cooling off period where the wording has enough sigs (after debate necessary) and then we get to reflect.

    If the matter were profound we would do well to act slowly lest it was a knee jerk reaction.

    Neither for or against this. just the workability.

    I both like and am wary of an unfiltered path to change the constitution and the risks of mob rule inherent in this.
    The general K.I.S.S. ("Keep It Simple, Stupid") approach of this r48.ie campaign has the upside of avoiding confusing people with too many nitty gritty details (that very thing is also a downside too though).

    Other countries have used various approaches to address some of the valid problems you mention above.

    Switzerland has a kind of cooling off period. The government can wait up to two years (and often does) before it has to run the referendum. The Swiss government can also put forward its own (possibly more sensible and better drafted) alternative proposal. Voters then can choose between the status quo (no change), the original citizen initiative proposal, or the government's alternative.

    Other countries place certain restrictions on the the initiatives that can be proposed. One approach is to not allow certain parts of the constitution, e.g. the fundamental rights section, to be changed via this mechanism. Or one can specify that proposals cannot change the basic fundamental democratic nature of the state. This allows constitutional courts to throw out any somewhat dodgy anti-democratic proposals. Or international treaty sections can be immunized from citizen initiatives. Such an approach would ensure that initiatives wouldn't be called here on issues like EU treaties or rights issues like abortion etc..

    The minimum signature requirement is another important parameter that has a big impact on how frequently the mechanism will be used. 50,000 signatures was the requirement in the Free State article. That's roughly equivalent to Switzerland (its requirement is 100k but has about double our population). IMO a signature requirement of about 150k-200k would strike about the right balance, calibrating things so that referendums wouldn't be called too frequently (but still not be too onerous a requirement either).

    Minimum turnout for a valid referendum is another important consideration. A few countries requirement the YES vote to exceed 50% of the total electoral register for a proposition to pass, which is usually way too difficult to achieve in practice. Italy, which has a form of citizen initiative, requires an overall total turnout of 50% or more for a referendum to be valid. Even with this as many votes fail this requirement as meet it (Italian governments often deliberately try to arrange initiatives they don't like on unpopular times like school holidays to try to ensure this threshold isn't met). 25% or 33% is probably a better balance for minimum turnout.

    In general, there are various protections that can be put in place that mostly mitigate the issues you refer to.
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  8. #8
    roc_ roc_ is offline
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    I have to say out of all the delusions that seem to have Irish citzens in their thrall today, this is one of the most pathological.

    In fact it is the most sublime example of trying to fit a solution to the wrong problem. - It must be one of the best illustrations of the Irish self-denial so pervasive today.

    For, what was the problem we had? - That lead to the need for a "solution" in the first place?

    Oh no, it wasn't that during 1997 to 2007 "Irish people" voted repeatedly for high salaries, increased welfare, and their own equity worth, on the backs of those who would come after them, who would pay through increased indenture to property...

    Never was it a general acquiescence in living high off of the "economic-rents" of this country; living high off of the promise of the future labour of our children, and their children...

    Hey, let's not mention that in 2008 there was hardly a whimper sounded about the twin strokes pulled in that year (the Guarantee and NAMA flagged a week later), to try and rescue the above status quo...

    Let's all pretend it's not a cringe-worthy matter that only around 2012 did any form of real protest movement emerge in this country, and they were protesting against site tax and water tax, and essentially a couple of euro as week to pay for what needed doing for our future in terms of our infrastructure and duty to future generations...

    (While we're at it, let's all blind ourselves to the fact that site tax and water tax actually consist the market underpinnings of reversing the very thing wrong in this country 1997-2007 that lead to the inevitable...)

    The problem in this country is a peasant-minded status quo, revisionism, populism, and related. By "peasant-minded" I mean single-minded egocentricity, being concerned solely with one's own short-term interest, understanding only coercion and thus kowtowing to any established authority, childishness, deceitfulness, meanness, greediness (if someone else is paying), and indeed stoicism in a certain sense. In a word, being completely self-centred.

    This idea of "direct democracy", as currently advocated, is intentioned towards the belief that the problem does not lie within ourselves, but that all can be blamed on outside parties, so all we need to do is "take control", and force them to do the "right thing".

    It is a recipe for further disaster. Never mind that this impulse towards blaming outside parties will end up where it always ends up. (Which trajectory can already be clearly observed in this country, thus the bulk of my posts on politics.ie.)
    Last edited by roc_; 22nd January 2016 at 09:56 AM.
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  9. #9
    realistic1 realistic1 is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finbar10 View Post
    I recently, entirely by chance, came across the "Reinstate Article 48" www.reinstate48.ie campaign website. This describes itself as: "an initiative to restore direct democracy to the constitution". This "Article 48" refers to an article in the original Free State constitution that permitted citizen initiatives, i.e. a sufficient number of voter signatures would allow ordinary citizens to directly trigger a referendum on a proposed bill or constitutional amendment. That provision was later deleted from the constitution (the Free State constitution remained alterable by parliamentary majority all through its history). There's a short 5 minute video of Diarmaid Ferriter on the website (his mug displayed prominently below! ) giving some of the historical background to this article 48 provision:



    This R48 campaign seems to be directed at the upcoming GE. Voters can publicly sign a "pledge" on the website (just over 3000 signed up so far). There's also a list of GE candidates (19 so far) that have promised to support the introduction of a citizens initiative mechanism into the constitution if elected.

    IMO there's much to like about their campaign. It concerns a topic that would be very much after my own heart. Inserting a citizens initiative mechanism into the constitution would be at the very top of my own list of desired political reforms. If that could possibly be achieved, then IMO much else reform-wise would inevitably follow. Their slogan is snappy. They've kept their message simple and streamlined. Article 48 of the original Free State constitution would be a reasonable way of implementing citizen initiatives. It also has a nice historical resonance (relevant as we approach 1916 and other centenaries).

    However, it was only by chance that I even heard of this initiative (and I'm actually quite interested in the topic of political reform). While there seems to have been a bit of traction on social media, it seems to have flown below most people's radars.

    Another concern I had is that most of the signed up GE candidates are in the Green Party; not all are though (there are independents and People Before Profit candidates there too). I would usually myself give the Green Party a preference (generally not my highest ones though) because of some of their environmental policies and also because their political reform policies tend to be better developed than most other parties. I can't say I'd be a great fan of their policies in many other areas though. The committee for R48 claims to be not politically aligned. I actually personally knew who two of the people on it were (and knew that to be true). Nonetheless, I contacted them and found out some more about the background to the campaign. It would indeed seem to be that case that those organizing this aren't involved with political parties (and not the Green Party either). This all seems to be a purely voluntary effort run on a shoe string. They did say, though, that they are considering doing some fundraising in the near future and might produce some election posters for their campaign.

    IMO anything that raises awareness amongst the electorate of the history, mechanisms and benefits of citizen-led initiatives (direct democracy) can only be a good thing. It's a pity, though, that this initiative has only gotten a fairly modest amount of momentum behind it so far. I could very easily have gone up to the GE totally oblivious of this. Plus there isn't even a great deal of time left in the run up to the GE either. I suppose, though, that there's a fair chance the next Dáil will not last too long (so they might well get another bite at the cherry in the medium term).

    Citizen initiatives/direct democracy are, of course, not everyone's cup of tea. But, for those who do like the general idea, visiting the website and signing up to the "Reinstate 48" pledge does seem like a good way of supporting the introduction of citizens initiatives. What do people think? In general, are citizens initiatives are a good or bad idea? What do you think of this particular campaign's approach?
    Have Irish Political parties been officially asked how they stand on the 48 issue? Would love to see an official yes/no answer from them.
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  10. #10
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by realistic1 View Post
    Have Irish Political parties been officially asked how they stand on the 48 issue? Would love to see an official yes/no answer from them.
    I'm not sure actually (though I might ask r48 themselves about that). They did contact some of the major newspapers before Christmas with the aim of getting some coverage for this (without success I think).
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