Belfast Telegraph

Constitutional forum demands change

A powerful forum which helped secure several referendums in Ireland is urging the Government to focus on right-to-die laws, abortion and the removal of the Catholic church from public institutions.

The Constitutional Convention - a 100-strong body of citizens and Parliamentarians - was set up a year and a half ago to recommend changes to the Constitution.

Its findings has already helped secure votes on same-sex marriage, lowering the voting age and reducing the age of candidacy for presidential candidates.

As it officially concluded its work today, the gathering demanded another Convention be established which could help drive further changes to Irish society.

More than half want to see national debate on the protection of the environment as well as Seanad reform.

Over a third of the Convention have called for an overhaul of local government to come under the spotlight, while 29% urged attention on the definition of the family and 27% demanded a focus on the separation of the Church and State.

More than fifth believe changes in the Constitution to allow for right-to-die laws "for an assisted peaceful death" should be allowed.

There were also calls for further debate on the appointment of judges, private property rights, abortion, the establishment of a bill of rights and how referendums are held.

Tom Arnold, chairman of the Convention, praised those involved for their work.

"Back in December 2012 when the Convention was launched I noted that in some of our public discourse, there is a cynicism and a sense of alienation which is unhealthy for our society and, ultimately, dangerous for our democracy," he said.

"As the Convention concludes 18 months later I was heartened to observe that one interesting outcome was the increased level of mutual respect that developed between citizens and politicians as they worked together.

"At all times the work of the Convention was guided by the principle of equality of voice, and despite some initial concerns that politicians, with their greater expertise in public speaking would dominate proceedings, the citizen members proved more than capable of holding their own in the discussions."

The Government has yet to respond to other reports by the Convention on Dail reform and economic, social and cultural rights.

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