- The Iona Institute - http://www.ionainstitute.ie -

The Citizens’ Assembly disregards contributions from ordinary citizens

What is the point of soliciting submissions from the public when the agenda of the Citizens’ Assembly is already set?

The Citizens’ Assembly devoted its last two sessions to the discussion of “how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an aging population”. For the occasion, the general public was invited to submit their comments and suggestions. 122 submissions were accepted and they are now accessible on the Citizens’ Assembly website [1]

A good number of those submissions (we counted at least 22) expressed concern about the possible introduction of euthanasia or assisted suicide in legislation and how this would impact negatively on elderly people. Here some examples: “In the light of the ideological agenda pursued by the state in recent years, there are legitimate grounds for inferring that consideration of demographic aging will be a ‘flag of convenience’ for seeking to legislate for coercive means of controlling population trends including legislation for euthanasia.” “We should not go down the road of euthanasia, which would be the most abominable form and expression of ingratitude.” “Our postmodern preoccupation with sanitising the world has freed us from some suffering, but has left us with a deeper suffering of lack of meaning, lack of wisdom and lack of connection. Let’s not be tempted to go down the route of some countries, who sanitise humanity out of existence by legalised murder (euthanasia.)”

Only one submission seemed to be in favour of euthanasia.

These topics were completely ignored in the summary of the submissions prepared by the Secretariat [2]In the 14 page document there is no mention of any of those issues. Not only were they not proposed for discussion but they were not even explicitly acknowledged. Interestingly, during the June meeting the Assembly members engaged in a roundtable brainstorming exercise on what issues they wanted to cover at the second and final weekend. Table 8, among other issues, suggested the discussion of assisted dying. This was also ignored.

In October, when discussing the 8th amendment, the organisers of the Citizens’ Assembly were surprised by the huge number of submissions [3], more than 13,000. Rather than taking extra time to consider and discuss them, they decided to concentrate on a sample of 300 submissions randomly chosen and many ordinary citizens who had sent their contributions felt betrayed by the process. Their voice wasn’t heard.

This time the number of submissions was much more limited but still, those who have expressed concern about certain pro-life issues (euthanasia, assisted suicide) affecting elderly people will be once again disappointed. The organisers don’t consider those issues to be worthy of being recorded, not to mind being taken into consideration and being discussed. Why? What is the point of soliciting submissions from the public when the agenda of the Citizens’ Assembly is already set? Ignoring their concerns is the worst response to the challenges and opportunities of an aging population.