McGuinness to represent SF on convention panel

Martin McGuinness is set to make a return to politics in the Republic as a Sinn Féin nominee on the panel of the constitutional convention.

The presidential candidate has been selected as the party’s representative from the North and will be joined by leader Gerry Adams and deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

Mr McGuinness’s participation is expected to spark debate as he may have a strong influence on the panel, particularly after receiving somewhat of a vote of confidence in last year’s presidential race and coming third.

Sinn Féin is expected to lobby strongly for votes for citizens at Irish embassies abroad, one of the topics on the convention.

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh confirmed that the three had been selected.

Research firm Behaviour & Attitudes has finished selecting the 66 citizens who will sit at the convention. The individuals represent a spread across society in line with the last census.

There are 33 men and 33 women, aged from 18 to 80-plus. The group represents a wide spectrum of Irish society, including unemployed people, disabled people, professions, trades and students.

Another 66 citizens have been chosen to “shadow” the first 66, in case any participant becomes ill or is unable to attend every meeting of the convention.

Eight topics have been chosen for debate and the convention will sit every month from the end of this month or the beginning of October until June next year.

In addition to the citizens chosen, 33 elected representatives from both parts of the island and an independent chair will make up the convention.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has received approaches for places from parties in the North.

Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party, the Green Party, the UUP, and the DUP have all been invited to participate.

These would be allowed one nominee on the convention panel but all six are not expected to participate.

Four or five nominees from the North would mean less space for TDs and senators.

The Irish Examiner understands that Fine Gael has been allotted 12 places, Labour seven, Fianna Fáil four, Independents four, and Sinn Féin two.

If five parties from the North take places, Fine Gael’s quota on the panel is expected to be reduced to 11.

Fianna Fáil’s nominees are TDs Sean Ó Fearghail and Seamus Kirk, as well as senators Averil Power and Thomas Byrne. None of the nominees is from the party’s frontbench, expect for Mr Ó Fearghail.

No payments will be made to citizens, politicians, or to lawyers and experts who will advise the convention during sittings. “They will be fed and watered, put up and sent home,” said an Oireachtas source.

It is expected that six out of the eight weekend meetings will be held in Dublin, as many of the participants hail from the capital.

The first two issues to be discussed are reducing the voting the age and the term of the presidency.

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