Judge Mary Laffoy to chair citizens’ assembly

Supreme Court judge Mary Laffoy will head up the new Citizens’ Assembly which will examine the Eighth Amendment.

The appointment comes after Fianna Fáil, who are supporting the Government through their confidence and supply agreement, had pushed for a judge-led commission to examine the possibility of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Cabinet yesterday appointed the judge — who previously presided over the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse from 1999–2003 — as chairperson of the Citizens’ Assembly.

She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2013.

The Programme for Government commits to setting up a Citizens’ Assembly to consider the Eighth Amendment, our aging population, fixed-term parliaments, climate change and a number of other issues.

The new Citizens’ Assembly will be led by Justice Laffoy and 99 members of the public will be randomly selected on the basis of being representative of the Irish electorate in terms of gender, age and regional spread.

The first item which the assembly will consider will be the controversial and delicate issue of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution with €600,000 budgeted for the assembly’s work.

However, many in opposition have accused the Government of kicking the issue of repealing the Eighth down the road through the assembly.

Speaking in the Dáil during a debate on the issue earlier this month Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan said: “We recognise that the impact of the Eighth Amendment is a matter that does merit discussion and consideration, however, Fianna Fáil believe that because it is an issue of such sensitivity and complexity that it cannot adequately be dealt with by putting together 100 citizens in what’s referred to as a Citizens’ Assembly.

“We know the breadth of opinion on the issue in Irish society and we believe that would simply be reflected in the citizens’ assembly,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Ruth Coppinger of the AAA-PBP group described the setting up of a Citizens’ Assembly as a “charade that the Government felt they had to come up with”.

The assembly will first make a report with recommendations on this matter of the Eighth Amendment to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

It will then be referred for consideration to an Oireachtas Committee which will in turn bring its conclusions to both the Dáil and the Seanad.

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone signalled that the position of deputy government press secretary would likely be filled in the coming days: “I hope within the next couple of days we’re moving towards a resolution and getting it done. It would be great, very helpful to have that person.

However, she refused to provide the shortlist of candidates adding that it would be “certainly somebody good”.

A second liaison position between Fine Gael and the Independents is also due to be created.


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