Constitutional convention to hold first meetings this month

The first meeting of the convention on the Constitution will gather later this month.

The voting age and the length of the term of the presidency will be debated and examined by the convention 100-member panel during a two-day assembly on Jan 26 and 27 at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, Dublin.

Academic experts are lined up to speak to politicians as well as ordinary citizens.

University College Cork political scientist Theresa Reidy will brief members on the issue of reducing the voting age to 17.

Robert Elgie, head of Dublin City University’s law school, will outline issues on the possibility of reducing the term of the presidency from seven years.

A spokesman for the convention yesterday confirmed that no figure has been agreed yet on the salary to be paid to convention chairman Tom Arnold. The Concern chief executive has said he is planning to leave his position with the charity to oversee the convention.

A number of advocacy groups and organisations have made submissions to the convention ahead of the hearings, including the National Youth Council who are keen to see the voting age reduced.

Hearings of the convention will be screened live online on www.constitution.ie while focus groups discussions later on the weekend will be held in private.

The convention has promised to be transparent in its operations. Submissions to it have been made public and published online. The latest round of submissions in recent weeks were received from politicians, human rights advocates and youth representatives among others.

The deliberations at the end of the month will look at reducing the presidential term from seven years to five and running it along with the local and European elections, and also reducing the voting age from 18 to 17.

Eight areas of reform will be examined over the coming year by the convention

The Government has promised to decide within four months of each issue being discussed whether to hold a referendum or not.

It is possible that one or a number of the convention’s recommendations may be decided in an autumn vote, already signalled by Enda Kenny.

The Taoiseach said last month that he would be actively campaigning to have the Seanad scrapped with a referendum on the matter to be held this coming autumn. Any such vote could be accompanied by other matters on the ballot papers, Mr Kenny said at the time.

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