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The Citizens Assembly

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  • 06-11-2017 2:20pm
    #1
    Closed Accounts Posts: 273 ✭✭


    A few weeks ago I was speaking with a Catholic priest, engaging in some friendly chat about current affairs and generally what's happening in the world. One of his remarks which caught my attention was that he described the Citizens Assembly as being unrepresentative. Now from his position I can understand how he came to that conclusion given their rather liberal recommendation on abortion. I didn't think much of it though since the CA was meant to have been selected as being truly representative by design.

    However looking at the CAs musings on climate change I'm beginning to think he may have had a point. For any politician to run on the climate change recommendation, which calls for substantial taxation increases on farming and motoring would be consigning themselves to losing their deposit. Is there CAs just grouping of wishful thinkers and indeed how representative can a group of 99 people be? Or is just the CA divorced from political reality?


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Comments

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 16,013 ✭✭✭✭James Brown


    I wouldn't be concerned. The CA is a PR stunt and distraction. They'll (government) only put as much weight to any conclusions or findings as they want.

    'Political reality' has more to do with agendas than non-partisan problem solving.


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    Vronsky wrote: »
    A few weeks ago I was speaking with a Catholic priest, engaging in some friendly chat about current affairs and generally what's happening in the world. One of his remarks which caught my attention was that he described the Citizens Assembly as being unrepresentative. Now from his position I can understand how he came to that conclusion given their rather liberal recommendation on abortion. I didn't think much of it though since the CA was meant to have been selected as being truly representative by design.

    However looking at the CAs musings on climate change I'm beginning to think he may have had a point. For any politician to run on the climate change recommendation, which calls for substantial taxation increases on farming and motoring would be consigning themselves to losing their deposit. Is there CAs just grouping of wishful thinkers and indeed how representative can a group of 99 people be? Or is just the CA divorced from political reality?
    It may be that in the collaborative, collective atmosphere of the Citizens Assembly, people say things and support things, that they consider to be in the public interest and for the common good. But in the privacy of the ballot box they may vote for their private and short-term interests.

    This wouldn't make the Citizens Assembly unrepresentative. It would just make it unrepresentative of what people do in the privacy of the voting booth.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,992 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    Vronsky wrote: »
    the CA was meant to have been selected as being truly representative by design.
    AFAIK the members are selected by a private company somehow, but the process is not very transparent.
    If they were selected randomly, similar to modern jurors or ancient Athenian officeholders, I'd have more confidence in it.
    The use of a lottery to select officeholders was regarded as the most democratic means: elections would favour those who were rich, noble, eloquent and well-known, while allotment spread the work of administration throughout the whole citizen body, engaging them in the crucial democratic experience of, to use Aristotle's words, "ruling and being ruled in turn" (Politics 1317b28–30). The allotment of an individual was based on citizenship rather than merit or any form of personal popularity which could be bought. Allotment therefore was seen as a means to prevent the corrupt purchase of votes and it gave citizens a unique form of political equality as all had an equal chance of obtaining government office.
    I'm always a bit suspicious when I hear something is "truly representative by design". Who designed it, why, and what are they getting out of it?
    Also, is this the same batch as last time?


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,893 ✭✭✭megaten


    recedite wrote: »


    I'm always a bit suspicious when I hear something is "truly representative by design". Who designed it, why, and what are they getting out of it?
    Also, is this the same batch as last time?

    https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/About-the-Citizens-Assembly/Background/Procurement/

    RED C were responsible for selection so about as reliable as their polls and other research, whatever that means to you.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,992 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    We could save money by letting Red C decide the outcome of proposed referendums before we hold them. And sure why not let them select the Dail too?


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  • Registered Users Posts: 6 Weatherwax63


    It would appear to be a voice for the noiseiest of us, rather than a true representation of the Irish Citizens as a whole. Populist and biased.


  • Registered Users Posts: 19 John P. Mac


    The people who, if selected, would commit to five or so week ends in Dublin "discussing" such issues as climate change, abortion, voting age etc have to be passionate about those issues. The first CA had (by random selection ?) a high number of Labour activists.

    Assuming random selection of electors it would be interesting to know how many declined the invitation and how alternates were selected. I have seen claims (not sure where) that only about 5% of those selected agreed to serve. Most people I know would run a mile from such an invite.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,992 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    The people who, if selected, would commit to five or so week ends in Dublin "discussing" such issues as climate change, abortion, voting age etc .....

    many declined the invitation and how alternates were selected.....

    Most people I know would run a mile from such an invite....
    In short, "the noisiest of us", and the least busy of us.
    But keen to tell the rest of us what we should be doing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,700 ✭✭✭Mountainsandh


    I was just looking at the website.
    They are committing to 10 week-ends.
    All meetings take place within a 20 km radius of Dublin, and they are committing to Saturdays and half day Sunday.
    All expenses are paid, and partners may join at their own expense, and obviously cannot take part in the assembly.

    The recruitment questionnaire asks how they voted in the last election, so while the social status is rather vague, their political leaning is clear from the day they are recruited.

    Of the total number recruited, 38 did not turn up for meetings originally and substitutes were recruited, then another 4, then another 10 (as time went). So the original mix recruited is likely to be substantially different. As the list stands some counties are not represented (like co Tipp I think).

    I think it is unlikely that some professions may commit to such a large amount of week-ends, I'm thinking of nurses, farmers, shift workers, who no matter how concerned about their civic duty, may simply not have the luxury to attend 9/10 week-ends away from children and family (or farm, or work !).
    I doubt too many single parents would be available for same, and even for 2 parent families, 10 week-ends is quite a chunk of away time to commit to, especially for those with young families.
    I think less academic and literate citizens would self exclude in most instances (this would be like "going back to school" for many I guess).

    I also think that the further geographically from the venue, the less likely the above are to commit. So unless the recruitment process factored in the need for a farmer from Donegal, I can't really see it happening spontaneously.

    Overall it doesn't convince me that the sample is representative of the Irish population.

    List of members with counties, recruitment booklets etc... are on this page.

    https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/About-the-Citizens-Assembly/Who-are-the-Members/


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    Inevitably, the membership of an assembly like this can only represent the class of people who are prepared to involve themselves in such an assembly, live lives which make participation practicable, and are sufficiently interested in public affairs to agree to participate. So we have to be realistic about how representative such an assembly could ever be.

    On the other hand, the membership of Dail Eireann can only represent the class of people who are prepared to make politics a full-time occupation, and who are prepared to submit themselves to the electoral process. And those are much, much bigger limitations.

    I think the value of something like the citizens assembly is that, for all the practical constraints on who will participate, it can accommodate a much more diverse group of people than Dail Eireann is ever likely to. And, further, it's a group of people whose opinions are not constrained by the need for popularity, or by the need to appease particular interest groups, or by the desire to curry political favour and secure a ministerial appointment.

    Obviously, it has no democratic mandate, and it could never be given any decision-making powers, either legislative or executive. But it can have value as a forum in which a more diverse range of opinions and values will be expressed.

    And, being cynical, it can have political value as a fig-leaf for politicians who recognise what needs to be done in a particular area but lack the gumption to stand up to establishment figure or vested interests who are opposed. The fact that a particular view has emerged from or been endorsed by the citizens assembly can give them cover for advancing it while at the same time deflecting some of the criticism from those opposed.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,992 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    I think the value of something like the citizens assembly is that, for all the practical constraints on who will participate, it can accommodate a much more diverse group of people than Dail Eireann is ever likely to. And, further, it's a group of people whose opinions are not constrained by the need for popularity, or by the need to appease particular interest groups, or by the desire to curry political favour and secure a ministerial appointment.

    Obviously, it has no democratic mandate, and it could never be given any decision-making powers, either legislative or executive. But it can have value as a forum in which a more diverse range of opinions and values will be expressed.
    So what you're saying is, the CA is as useful as the politics forum of boards.ie in terms of state policy :)


  • Registered Users Posts: 26,511 ✭✭✭✭Peregrinus


    recedite wrote: »
    So what you're saying is, the CA is as useful as the politics forum of boards.ie in terms of state policy :)
    Though not nearly as well-informed, of course. ;)


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,889 ✭✭✭✭expectationlost


    I was just looking at the website.
    They are committing to 10 week-ends.
    All meetings take place within a 20 km radius of Dublin, and they are committing to Saturdays and half day Sunday.
    All expenses are paid, and partners may join at their own expense, and obviously cannot take part in the assembly.

    The recruitment questionnaire asks how they voted in the last election, so while the social status is rather vague, their political leaning is clear from the day they are recruited.

    Of the total number recruited, 38 did not turn up for meetings originally and substitutes were recruited, then another 4, then another 10 (as time went). So the original mix recruited is likely to be substantially different. As the list stands some counties are not represented (like co Tipp I think).

    I think it is unlikely that some professions may commit to such a large amount of week-ends, I'm thinking of nurses, farmers, shift workers, who no matter how concerned about their civic duty, may simply not have the luxury to attend 9/10 week-ends away from children and family (or farm, or work !).
    I doubt too many single parents would be available for same, and even for 2 parent families, 10 week-ends is quite a chunk of away time to commit to, especially for those with young families.
    I think less academic and literate citizens would self exclude in most instances (this would be like "going back to school" for many I guess).

    I also think that the further geographically from the venue, the less likely the above are to commit. So unless the recruitment process factored in the need for a farmer from Donegal, I can't really see it happening spontaneously.

    Overall it doesn't convince me that the sample is representative of the Irish population.

    List of members with counties, recruitment booklets etc... are on this page.

    https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/About-the-Citizens-Assembly/Who-are-the-Members/
    members are recuited based on 15 propitiatory urban/rural regions not counties
    6. Attrition among members was not focused on a regional basis, but rather more focused on age,
    gender and economic status. As such, when recruiting replacement members, in light of the fact
    that overall membership remained broadly regionally representative, the recruitment at that point
    was to focus on other demographic attributes used to control the sample including age, gender and
    economic statu
    https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/News/RED-C-Internal-Audit.pdf pg 11


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,889 ✭✭✭✭expectationlost


    so REDc were asked to recruit 13 more people after drop outs before the Referenda session and turns out one recruiter was having trouble recuiting people so asked his family and friends to suggest people and then rang them rather then do it by random door knocking as agreed with the CA, he recuited 7 people in this improper way. So the close votes for the referenda session are being deemed invalid https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/Manner-in-which-referenda-are-held/Manner-in-which-referenda-are-held.html

    REDc say they checked and said all previous recruitments were correct so previous sessions such as abortion not affected....

    the documents are here
    https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/Manner-in-which-referenda-are-held/Manner-in-which-referenda-are-held.html

    which Includes REDc's audit but I don't know how the problem wasn't spotted when there is supposed to be " a secondary validation screening process to double check that those who had been recruited were a. definitely happy to take part and b. were recruited as prescribed" https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/News/RED-C-Internal-Audit.pdf
    This came to light in final checks conducted by the Secretariat among new members attending their first meeting on the 13th & 14th January 2018, when one replacement member stated that recruitment had been initiated by telephone rather than face to face.
    so secretariat had suspicions on the day but let the people continue (otherwise the meeting would have to have been cancelled?)

    theres long been criticism of pollling,thats its being done by people ringing their mates to fill a quota and here we have that exact thing happening...

    so the person directly involved is suspended https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/recruiter-for-citizens-assembly-suspended-after-replacement-members-enlisted-through-personal-contacts-and-not-randomly-36629881.html

    seems like a firing offense to me


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,375 ✭✭✭ForestFire


    If 7% of any election vote was compromised there would be serious consequences?
    Also I really don't see how this assemble is represetitive, I'll try to return later with more of my thoughts and read back through the thread.


    https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2018/0222/942598-citizens-assembly/


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,889 ✭✭✭✭expectationlost


    ForestFire wrote: »
    If 7% of any election vote was compromised there would be serious consequences?
    Also I really don't see how this assemble is represetitive, I'll try to return later with more of my thoughts and read back through the thread.


    https://www.rte.ie/news/ireland/2018/0222/942598-citizens-assembly/

    yes the consequence is that the close votes will be ignored. (as if there weren't going to be anyway)


  • Registered Users Posts: 16,686 ✭✭✭✭Zubeneschamali


    The pro-lifers are predictably using this latest scandal to try and discredit the report on the 8th amendment.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,375 ✭✭✭ForestFire


    The pro-lifers are predictably using this latest scandal to try and discredit the report on the 8th amendment.

    Why do you say that? There is nothing in the boards debate on it that I seen?

    Also this has happened after the votes on the 8th, so this particular scandal does not affect that, in my opinion, and as always in Ireland what is going to the the next scandal to emerge (You know there is more coming:))

    Anyway....

    Is it really random representation?
    Is 100 citizens enough to achieve this?

    The process seems to be to ring people at random and ask them can they give up a very significant part of their time to attend, so with this in mind...

    How many hard working families with young kids are on the panel?
    How many travellers are on the panel?
    How many sports people are on the panel?
    How many health care people are on the panel?
    How many Emergency response people are on the panel?
    How many from the Pub trade, Retail, Transport, Tourism trade are on the panel?

    Who is on the panel:-

    Do we have a list of their demographics?
    Age
    Qualifications (to ensure they are not all academics by the way)
    Jobs
    etc.

    Do we have mainly retired people, Education people, Young people you are unfortumneatly unemployeed? (Basically anyone with free time on there hands)


    What about a system similar to this:-

    1)Larger number of people selected - e.g. 10, 000 (Stay with me:o)
    2)Dedicated time slots on TV for information and debates you must watch, but this can be from home (Weekend Evening time on RTE NEWS Now, and also steamed if you out of country and we will pay your TV licence!!)
    3) Secure web logins for voting (We can do internet banking)
    4) Web/Telephone conferences if need?


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,229 ✭✭✭✭Hurrache


    The pro-lifers are predictably using this latest scandal to try and discredit the report on the 8th amendment.

    Because Cora Sherlock is on the News at 1 saying so and insinuating that as as a result there's a question mark over the holding of the referendum in the first place.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 273 ✭✭Vronsky


    I think the main problem is that 100 people is not nearly enough to get a representative sample of the population. To get within a 2.5% margin of error you would need well over 1500 people at a confidence level of 95%.

    And that's before you get into issues with the selection process. Indeed it would be good to see an the age and occupation profile of the members. I can be absolutely sure it won't even be close to the population profile.

    In any case, it doesn't really matter. The CA was a smokescreen to give the those that are pushing for change on the 8th a vehicle to achieve that goal and a way for FG to abdicate responsibility for that change.

    We didn't need another CA, we already have a well paid one in Leinster House. It's just they didn't have the balls to lead on this issue.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 68,317 ✭✭✭✭seamus


    Vronsky wrote: »
    I think the main problem is that 100 people is not nearly enough to get a representative sample of the population.
    That's OK though. Because they're not making policy or legislative decisions. The intention is merely to act as a general indicator of public sentiment. So worrying about confidence levels isn't that relevant, because the CA isn't making any binding decisions.
    It should be expected that it will be wrong on occasion, because as mentioned early in this thread, the assembly is skewed towards those who are willing to engage in the process.

    One could make the argument that the CA was just a pass-the-buck contest for FG, but at the same time before the CA's recommendations, there was a lot of hand-wringing from politicians about it being complicated, about difficulties with limits and such.
    And you had the pro-life side claiming that there was no public desire for it except from fringe groups of baby murdering lefties.

    But once the CA recommendations came out, miraculously there was political clarity on it and the pro-life changed their tune from "no desire for abortion" to "people are being lied to".

    It's a political game, but one that is necessary. Political bias has been excised from the debate, which is essential if you want something resembling a fair outcome.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,339 ✭✭✭✭jimmycrackcorm


    The pro-lifers are predictably using this latest scandal to try and discredit the report on the 8th amendment.

    Maybe so but it's interesting that the CA was so heavily in favour of repeal the 8th whereas polls indicate a sizeable minority going to vote against in the referendum. That alone just questions how representative the CA is.


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,889 ✭✭✭✭expectationlost


    re representativeness, its wasn't about the numbers, its not a phone poll, it was about the deliberation


  • Registered Users Posts: 11,889 ✭✭✭✭expectationlost


    ForestFire wrote: »
    Why do you say that? There is nothing in the boards debate on it that I seen?

    Also this has happened after the votes on the 8th, so this particular scandal does not affect that, in my opinion, and as always in Ireland what is going to the the next scandal to emerge (You know there is more coming:))

    Anyway....

    Is it really random representation?
    Is 100 citizens enough to achieve this?

    The process seems to be to ring people at random and ask them can they give up a very significant part of their time to attend, so with this in mind...

    How many hard working families with young kids are on the panel?
    How many travellers are on the panel?
    How many sports people are on the panel?
    How many health care people are on the panel?
    How many Emergency response people are on the panel?
    How many from the Pub trade, Retail, Transport, Tourism trade are on the panel?

    Who is on the panel:-

    Do we have a list of their demographics?
    Age
    Qualifications (to ensure they are not all academics by the way)
    Jobs
    etc.

    Do we have mainly retired people, Education people, Young people you are unfortumneatly unemployeed? (Basically anyone with free time on there hands)


    What about a system similar to this:-

    1)Larger number of people selected - e.g. 10, 000 (Stay with me:o)
    2)Dedicated time slots on TV for information and debates you must watch, but this can be from home (Weekend Evening time on RTE NEWS Now, and also steamed if you out of country and we will pay your TV licence!!)
    3) Secure web logins for voting (We can do internet banking)
    4) Web/Telephone conferences if need?
    here is the explaination they give https://www.citizensassembly.ie/en/About-the-Citizens-Assembly/Who-are-the-Members/


  • Registered Users Posts: 68,317 ✭✭✭✭seamus


    Maybe so but it's interesting that the CA was so heavily in favour of repeal the 8th whereas polls indicate a sizeable minority going to vote against in the referendum. That alone just questions how representative the CA is.
    The CA is engaged in the matter you see. It was involved in much discussion and presentation on the matter over several weeks.

    Whereas the voter on the ground is not going to get the same exposure. Some voters will be in their own echo chambers which reinforce their opinion without challenging it. Others won't care at all. So there will be a significant departure from the CA. It shouldn't be considered a failure of the CA if the referendum doesn't pass, but a failure of government to properly educate the electorate.

    A good example was seen starkly in the Presidential Age referendum. The constitutional convention recommended to put that one forward, it should have been an open goal. But a complete failure to discuss it in public meant it was the largest referendum defeat in Irish history.

    I actually agree in a large part with Forest Fire's suggestion. A larger poll of several thousand picked at random from the electoral register are sent web login details. In this portal you have some reading material, and a number of recorded presentations. You also include debates in a non-adversarial format, i.e. each participant records an opening discussion, and then a second recording of their rebuttal of the other person's statement. No moderator, no shouting over each other; debating without the passion and trickery.

    You watch and read all the material before the polling day or you're not permitted to cast a vote.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,420 ✭✭✭splinter65


    The pro-lifers are predictably using this latest scandal to try and discredit the report on the 8th amendment.

    ......instead of ignoring it the way the repeal people would have done if the report had gone the other way I suppose....please...your transparency is embarrassing


  • Registered Users Posts: 15,243 ✭✭✭✭Fr Tod Umptious


    Hurrache wrote: »
    Because Cora Sherlock is on the News at 1 saying so and insinuating that as as a result there's a question mark over the holding of the referendum in the first place.

    There is a "question" over, not a "question mark" over.

    No piece of puncuation is following the debate about abortion around the place.


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 273 ✭✭Vronsky


    seamus wrote: »
    The CA is engaged in the matter you see. It was involved in much discussion and presentation on the matter over several weeks.

    Whereas the voter on the ground is not going to get the same exposure. Some voters will be in their own echo chambers which reinforce their opinion without challenging it. Others won't care at all. So there will be a significant departure from the CA. It shouldn't be considered a failure of the CA if the referendum doesn't pass, but a failure of government to properly educate the electorate.

    A good example was seen starkly in the Presidential Age referendum. The constitutional convention recommended to put that one forward, it should have been an open goal. But a complete failure to discuss it in public meant it was the largest referendum defeat in Irish history.

    I actually agree in a large part with Forest Fire's suggestion. A larger poll of several thousand picked at random from the electoral register are sent web login details. In this portal you have some reading material, and a number of recorded presentations. You also include debates in a non-adversarial format, i.e. each participant records an opening discussion, and then a second recording of their rebuttal of the other's. No moderator, no shouting over each other; debating without the passion and trickery.

    You watch and read all the material before the polling day or you're not permitted to cast a vote.

    I don't know if it was done, but it would be good to know what way the CA polled on the issues prior to the Assembly and if informed debate changed many minds or just entrenched already held opinions.


  • Registered Users Posts: 10,229 ✭✭✭✭Hurrache


    There is a "question" over, not a "question mark" over.

    No piece of puncuation is following the debate about abortion around the place.

    No, she was holding a placard with a question mark.


    https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/a-question-mark-over-sth
    a question mark over sth

    an expression used when doubt exists about a particular thing:

    A question mark hangs over the future of the company.

    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/question-mark
    question mark
    Word forms: plural question marks
    1. countable noun
    A question mark is the punctuation mark ? which is used in writing at the end of a question.
    2. countable noun
    If there is doubt or uncertainty about something, you can say that there is a question mark over it.
    There are bound to be question marks over his future. [+ over]
    There's now a huge question mark hanging over the success of the negotiations.

    https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/question-mark
    Question mark noun
    BrE /ˈkwestʃən mɑːk/ ; NAmE /ˈkwestʃən mɑːrk/

    the mark ( ? ) used in writing after a question
    Oxford Collocations Dictionary
    See related entries: Punctuation
    Extra examples

    Idioms
    a question mark over/against something
    used to say that something is not certain
    There's still a big question mark hanging over his future with the team.

    So you can put your grammar Nazi cap back down.


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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 13,992 ✭✭✭✭recedite


    Peregrinus wrote: »
    And, being cynical, it can have political value as a fig-leaf for politicians who recognise what needs to be done in a particular area but lack the gumption to stand up to establishment figure or vested interests who are opposed. The fact that a particular view has emerged from or been endorsed by the citizens assembly can give them cover for advancing it while at the same time deflecting some of the criticism from those opposed.
    I think these words were prophetic. Initially I doubted that the CA would have any influence, but if you take something like the 12 week limit "no questions asked" abortion, it now seems to have become mainstream thinking.
    Nobody seems quite sure where it came from, but at some point the CA and the govt. were both pushing it, and now here we are. A referendum in the air, and anyone who does not accept the idea is considered an outlier.
    Its surprising how quickly a carefully managed momentum seems to create a new norm.


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