Dáil debates

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Ceisteanna - Questions

Citizens' Assembly

1:47 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 18 together.

The Citizens' Assembly on gender equality was established in January 2020 and submitted its final report to the Oireachtas on 2 June. The assembly agreed 45 priority recommendations covering a wide range of areas set out in its mandate. These include recommendations on politics and leadership, care giving and childcare, domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, pay and the workplace and social protection, and the Constitution. The final report of the assembly sets out those recommendations in context and is for consideration by the Oireachtas in the first instance.

Following delays caused by Covid-19, this assembly adapted its methods to comply with public health guidelines and resumed its work with online meetings last year. An independent researcher was appointed by the assembly to monitor and record, among other things, the perceived deliberative quality of the assembly. This report will assist in decisions on the use of virtual meetings for future assemblies. I am informed the researcher has now submitted her report to the Citizens' Assembly and I understand it will be published by the end of the week.

Under the programme for Government, the Government aims to establish a Citizens' Assembly in 2021 to consider the type of directly elected mayor and local government structures best suited for Dublin. This assembly will be established with a new chairperson and new members. Consideration is being given to the appropriate methodology for future citizens' assemblies, but any decisions in this regard will be guided by the experience of the gender equality assembly.

The programme for Government provides for the establishment of citizens' assemblies to consider biodiversity, matters relating to drugs use and the future of education. Officials from my Department are engaging with officials from relevant Departments on the approach to be taken with regard to these assemblies. It is envisaged that they will be established after the Citizens' Assembly on the Dublin mayor has completed its work, but the specific timing of each assembly has yet to be confirmed.

Citizens' assemblies do very valuable work in guiding policy and giving a sense of the direction the public would like the Government to take; however, their establishment must have careful regard to public health constraints, which can add to the complexity and the time it takes to operate them safely and effectively. Although the timing of the assemblies outlined in the programme for Government may not yet be confirmed, there are ongoing and new initiatives being carried out in each important area: biodiversity, drugs and the future of education.


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