Citizens Lead a Potential Democratic Makeover for Ireland
'We the Citizens' highlights a major citizen-based exercise in Ireland in 2011 to rethink the way politics is done.
The exercise was prompted by figures showing that in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis only 10% of citizens trusted the Irish political system.
The ‘We the Citizens’ program in essence trialled a Citizens Assembly where all citizens were invited to attend a series of local and regional meetings to set a potential policy agenda for the Assembly.
The Assembly, comprising a representative sample of 100 citizens, were then chosen and met to discuss the agenda.
The program, which was run by the political scientist departments of several Irish universities, found that the process of actively deliberating policy choices helped the Assembly participants to reconnect with the democratic system
‘Participants in the citizens' assembly showed a heightened interest in politics and a greater willingness to become more involved in politics, particularly among women,’ the program organisers reported.
“Such large shifts in opinion occurred especially after discussions on economic matters, for example tax and spending. Traditionally, participants were more in favour of spending cuts than tax increases. However, after being faced with the challenging trade-offs inherent in national economic issues, participants showed a marked increase in willingness to accept higher taxation.”
The program’s organisers submitted their findings to the Irish Government in a bid to convince them of the benefits of adding a similar structure of participatory democracy to Ireland’s existing political system.
Thumbnail image: Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny. European Parliament/Flickr