David Farrell

University College Dublin

Citizens Assembly Professor David Farrell

Professor Farrell was appointed to the Chair of Politics at University College Dublin in 2009, having returned to Ireland after two decades working at the University of Manchester (where he was Head of Social Sciences). He is currently Head of Politics and International Relations at UCD.

In 2013 he was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. He has held visiting positions at the Australian National University, Harvard, Mannheim, and the University of California Irvine. A specialist in the study of representation, elections and parties, he has published 19 books and more than 100 articles and book chapters.

His most recent books include:Political Parties and Democratic Linkage(Oxford University Press, 2011; paperback 2013), which was awarded the GESIS Klingemann Prize for the Best Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) Scholarship, A Conservative Revolution? Electoral Change in Twenty-First Century Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2017), The Post-Crisis Irish Voter: Voting Behaviour in the Irish 2016 General Election (Manchester University Press, 2018), and The Oxford Handbook of Irish Politics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). His current work is focused on constitutional deliberation, and in that capacity he was the research director of the Irish Constitutional Convention (2012-14) and the research leader of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly (2016-18). In November 2018 he retired as (founding) co-editor of Party Politics. He is a member of the executive committee of the European Consortium for Political Research.

Jane Suiter

Director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism

Citizens Assembly Jane Suiter

Dr Suiter is Director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) Future Media and Journalism at DCU and an Associate Professor in the School of Communications at Dublin City University. Jane's expertise lies mainly in the area of the public sphere; and in particular participation and political engagement; including direct democracy and other modes of engaging the public in decision-making processes; such as citizens’ assemblies and journalism. Her research is comparative: besides Ireland, her recent projects have included all European democracies as well as most of the OECD.

She is co-PI on the Irish Citizen Assembly (2016-2018) and on the Academic Support Group for the Irish Constitutional Convention (2012-2014) and a founder member of We the Citizens (2011), Ireland’s first deliberative experiment. She is currently PI of a Marie Curie ETN JOLT on harnessing technology for journalism, PI of PROVENANCE a H2020 project tackling disinformation in the social sphere and PI of the Reuters Digital News Report (Ireland).

Jane is a Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute, Oxford University, communication chair of COST ISI308 examining populist political communication and is on the Standing Committee of the ECPR standing group on Democratic Innovations and a member of the Social Sciences Committee of the RIA.

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly project

Citizens Assembly

This website brings together in one site the Irish experience of using citizens’ assemblies to facilitate widespread constitutional and political reform.

The genesis of this project was Ireland’s 2008/2009 financial and economic meltdown and the resulting anger over failings in our political system. We led a group of political scientists who proposed that citizens should be brought into the heart of debates over constitutional and political reforms to improve how our representative system of democracy operates. Our modus operandi was to seek to persuade the newly elected government in 2011 to establish a citizens’ forum – a “deliberative mini-public”. With generous funding from Atlantic Philanthropies we established We The Citizens, whose year-long activity of work culminated in Ireland’s first national citizens’ assembly in June 2011. That demonstrated, contrary to many political expectations, that Irish citizens could be trusted to make nuanced decisions and to weigh evidence. We presented the final report and underlying data analysis to government, which some months later established the Irish Constitutional Convention (2012-14). We were appointed to head the “academic and legal group”, with key responsibility to ensure that the Convention followed deliberative practice. This led to a referendum on marriage equality with Ireland becoming the first country to endorse such a move by popular vote. The success of the Constitutional Convention resulted in a decision to establish the Irish Citizens’ Assembly (2016-18) and we were appointed as the “research leaders” of that initiative. A number of important policy outcomes as well as constitutional changes have resulted and there are signs that more deliberative mini-publics will be established in the future, suggesting that the method is becoming embedded in the political system.  The Irish successes have also attracted considerable international interest.

Description

The project is set in a growing scholarly interest in the practice of deliberation, which included a series of citizens’ assemblies in Canada and the Netherlands in the early 2000s. Deliberation involves the random selection of regular citizens who are provided with objective information, listen to and question the experts, and then engage in facilitated (small group) discussions about policy issues. Their recommendations are then fed into the political process (either by referring back to government and parliament for decision or by referendum of the wider population).

The Irish Constitutional Convention operated over a 14-month period (meeting over the course of 10 weekends) following best deliberate practice.  Its 100 members comprised 66 citizens selected by an opinion poll agency, 33 national politicians and an independent chair appointed by the government. We headed a small academic and legal team that supported and monitored its operation. The Convention members were surveyed by our team throughout, allowing us to gather important data on opinion shifts and measures of deliberative quality.

The success of the Convention and the fact that 33 of its members were politicians with first-hand experience of the process resulted in a government decision to establish the Irish Citizens’ Assembly, which on this occasion consisted solely of regular citizens (99), again with an independent chair appointed by the government. It too met over a 14-month period. The Citizens’ Assembly followed the same method of operation as the Constitutional Convention. We were appointed as its research leaders once again allowing us to gather important data on opinion shifts and deliberative quality.

The agendas of both processes were for the most part set by the government.  The Constitutional Convention was given eight topics to consider: marriage equality, voting age, the electoral system, voting rights for citizens abroad, blasphemy, the length of the president’s term of office, a clause in the constitution on the role of women, and steps to increase the participation of women in politics and public life. The Convention members subsequently added two further items to their agenda: parliamentary reform and Economic, Social and Cultural rights. The Citizens; Assembly members were not given the opportunity to add to their agenda of five topics: abortion, climate change, ageing population, fixed-term parliaments, and the administration of referendums in Ireland.

Collaborators

Across the three projects we have worked with a number of different academic collaborators. To date, these include the following:

We the Citizens

Dr Elaine Byrne, adjunct, Trinity College Dublin (co-applicant for the Atlantic Philanthropies grant and member of the academic research team)

Dr Eoin O’Malley, Dublin City University (co-applicant for the Atlantic Philanthropies grant and member of the academic research team)

 

Convention on the Constitution

Dr Clodagh Harris, University College Cork (member of the academic and legal support group)

Dr Eoin O’Malley, Dublin City University (member of the academic and legal support group)

More generally, our research output has included collaboration with a number of colleagues, most particularly: Dr Clodagh Harris (UCC) and Dr Eoin O’Malley (DCU). To date, our other publication collaborators have included: Mary Brennan (PhD candidate, UCD), Dr Kevin Cunningham (Technological University of Dublin), Dr Jos Elkink (UCD), Prof Sofie Marien (KU Leuven), Dr Philip Murphy (UCC), Dr Theresa Reidy (UCC), and Prof Min Reuchamps (UC Louvain).