In October, the Citizens’ Assembly invited the general public to submit written opinions and contribute to the discussion on the 8th amendment to the Constitution, which is the pro-life amendment. The response from concerned citizens has surprised the organisers for two reasons: for the huge number of submissions and for the fact that a clear majority of them (70pc) express support for the 8th amendment. More than 13,000 submissions have been presented both by post and electronically. Many more than the organisers expected. Unfortunately, rather than taking extra time to consider and discuss them, those running the Citizens’ Assembly have decided to concentrate on a sample of 300 submissions randomly chosen. The rest will be ignored. Is this fair?
Of course it would have been impossible for the members of the Assembly to read all the 13,000 and more submissions. It would have required weeks. The organisers instead should have divided them so to give to every member of the Assembly an equal amount of submissions to be considered. Accordingly, every single person who has submitted would have been certain that their opinions were listened to and appreciated.
It is not too late to do that but I doubt if it will happen. If it did happen, the Assembly members could not fail to be struck by that fact that the majority of submissions are in support of the 8th amendment. Looking at the random sample of 300 that has been selected and offered for discussion to the members of the Assembly, 70% of the citizens were in favour of the 8th amendment while only 28% wanted a referendum.
During the Questions and Answers session some members of the Citizens’ Assembly asked Justice Laffoy that a breakdown be given for the number of submissions on both sides of the debate. Will this be provided? Probably not, as Justice Laffoy immediately replied that such a breakdown may not be possible. Why not? The request is more than legitimate. Otherwise what was the point of soliciting submissions?
If the random sample was truly representative of the 13,000 submissions received, then we already know the answer to the question; 70pc of those who made submissions don’t want a referendum.