Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Gerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
While I know the Taoiseach has been very busy, I find this matter frustrating. We have spoken about it many times in this Chamber but it has never got past where we are now. To compensate for the Taoiseach’s unavailability, I wrote to him and outlined some ideas. I again welcome the commitment to his having a meeting with us on the matter. I also welcome the Taoiseach’s previously stated commitment that the convention will consider extending the franchise for presidential elections north of the Border.
As the Good Friday Agreement enshrines in the Constitution the right of the people in the North to Irish citizenship, the constitutional convention must consider how they can fully exercise their citizenship. We have also often discussed the diaspora, which I value as does the Taoiseach. Citizens across the diaspora must also have some part in this constitutional convention. The Taoiseach must have some plans, ideas or notions he can share with the Dáil. For example, will the proposals of such a convention be put to the people in a referendum or will they go back to the Government? I have advocated consultations across the State and across the diaspora, which can be done by using our diplomatic services. Will voluntary social community organisations be able to have a part?
The programme for Government defines the remit as being to consider comprehensive constitutional reform.
Given what has happened across the island since the 1937 Constitution was written, will the Government consider allowing the convention to recommend an entirely new constitution for the 21st century? This could be a new re-imagining of Ireland, including a look at Ireland throughout all 32 counties and how we can move to reflect the wishes for Irish unity, while being sensitive to Unionist concerns, and to protect and have a human rights based protection of citizens’ rights. If a republic is nothing else, it is about the rights of citizens.