Ireland (and Poland's) Citizens Assembly show how democracy can be revived
The above is a short film on the Irish Citizens' Assembly that was called to help inform the Irish government (and wider society) about possible reforms to their tough anti-abortion laws. Here's the blurb:
Ireland's efforts to break a political deadlock over its de facto ban on abortion inspired a bold response - the creation of a Citizens' Assembly to tackle on the issue.
During five weekends spread over five months, a random selection of Irish people deliberated on the highly divisive and controversial issue. Their conclusion, in April 2017, recommended a radical liberalisation of existing laws, including a change to the Constitution.
Their work helped prompt Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to pledge a national referendum on abortion in 2018, when Irish voters will have a chance to make new laws.
The Assembly represents a breakthrough moment not just for Ireland but also for ways of doing politics in the rest of the world. By using random selection and deliberation to seek solutions to a highly contentious issue, rather than leaving it to elected politicians, Ireland has gifted us a real-life lesson in doing democracy differently.
At a time of deep dysfunction in our electorally driven political models - what issue wouldn't lend itself to a citizens' assembly approach?
The Assembly website shows that it's currently tackling a range of issues - fixed term parliaments, leading on climate change, the country's ageing population. The "sortition" process it deploys - choosing its members from a random selection of the population, as in jury duty - has proven to be extremely effective in the quality of its deliberations.
We're interested - and there is, as the Wikipedia entry shows, a lot of experimenting and application going on here.