Atheist Ireland seeks wider public consultation about Constitutional Convention

Along with other civil society groups, Atheist Ireland is concerned that the format and agenda for the Government’s proposed Constitutional Convention are too restrictive to bring about comprehensive change. As the Government seems likely to make a decision in the very near future, we have written the following letter to the Taoiseach and Tanaiste.

Dear Taoiseach/Tanaiste,

We understand that the Government will soon be making decisions about the format and agenda of the proposed Constitutional Convention. We are asking you to extend the consultation period before you make these decisions, and to seek input from civil society groups and the wider public.

The Programme for Government says that the Convention will “consider comprehensive constitutional reform” that will help to ensure that “Ireland will be a transformed country”. The Programme for Government also lists seven agenda items for the Convention.

To enable these ambitious outcomes to happen, we are asking you to re-order the items on the proposed agenda, to give maximum priority to Item Seven, which is: “Other relevant constitutional amendments that may be recommended by the Convention.” This change would enable the Convention to focus on the truly comprehensive and transformational changes that are needed to bring about a Constitution that reflects a modern pluralist republic.

From our perspective as an advocacy group for secularism, this would include ensuring that the State does not discriminate for or against any citizen on the basis of their religious or nonreligious philosophical beliefs, enabling atheist and agnostic citizens to become President or a judge or a member of the Council of State, and ensuring that the education system respects the freedom of conscience of all citizens without discrimination.

On the other hand, if Item Seven is treated as the final item on the agenda, to be addressed only after the first six specific issues are dealt with, then it will be impossible for the Convention to achieve the ambitious aims described in the Programme for Government.

We are also asking you to consider removing the blasphemy issue from the agenda of the Convention, and treating it instead as one of the urgent constitutional reforms that you are addressing outside of the Convention. Both Government parties are already committed to removing the blasphemy law, and there is a widespread political, legal and public consensus that we should not have such a law. There is no need to have a Convention discuss this for a year before asking the people to remove this anachronism from our Constitution.

But however you respond to the suggestions about our specific priority areas, our most urgent request is that you extend the consultation period before you make your final decisions, and that you seek input from civil society groups and the wider public.

Atheist Ireland

1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Wayne Kelly April 15, 2012

    Hi

    Firstly i would like to thank you for the work you are doing and long may it continue. This morning Sunday the 15th of april i turned on Rte1 and found that a catholic service was being broadcast on a state run citezen funded channel. I was shocked by this and wrote the following to the complaints department and to the evening herald: “On Rte1 this morning a program called “Mass on Sunday” was being
    broadcast. This being a Christian religious service and as a licence
    payee i am wondering as a matter of equality when all the other
    religions services are going to be on? Surely a state body who
    represent multicultural citizens would not discriminate against all
    other religions and only show one?”
    I dont know how none of the other 20+ major religions are being represent by Rte as to not discriminate or to push a religion on the public. I pay for this station and am outraged that it is only representing one religion. If i had my way i wouldnt have any of course but are Rte really telling me that they are going to only show one religious service?

    Kind regards

    Wayne Kelly

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