Call for Independent Tribunal to Investigate Citizens' Assembly Recruitment Practices
Recent revelations have shown that the process of member selection for the Citizens' Assembly, which the RED C polling company uses to choose members of the public "at random", is actually wide-open to abuse and could have compromised all of the recommendations of the body, to-date.
The fact that seven replacement members of the Citizens' Assembly were selected from the personal contact details of a RED C recruiter throws grave doubt on the entire process of so-called "deliberative democracy". This doubt is further magnified when one learns that 11 out of the Republic's 26 counties were not represented on the Assembly's panel of "randomly chosen" citizens.
For these reasons, this petition calls for the immediate establishment of an Independent Tribunal to investigate the recruitment practices of the Citizens' Assembly.
Of course, we shouldn't be surprised by these revelations because a problem of similar nature arose with Ireland's Constitutional Convention, the Citizens' Assembly's predecessor. Indeed, in 2013, it was revealed that a couple (i.e., a man and woman who were living together), as well as (separately) two neighbours, were "randomly selected" to be on that panel. At the time, 66 citizens along with 33 politicians composed the Convention. So, if you do the maths, that means that, statistically, the chances of a couple being selected "at random" is 1 in 2.5 Billion...
Fast-forward to today, and we see that, in fact, safeguards in the process of member selection (i.e., for ensuring random selection) for the Assembly were so lax that friends or acquaintances of RED C recruiters could be chosen to participate on this panel.
And so, the subsequent attempt (by some politicians, like Simon Harris) to dismiss this revelation, as irrelevant to the ongoing debate on the 8th Amendment, is like a slap in the face to every Irish democrat.
The public were assured by the Government that this process, whereby "average" citizens would make recommendations to the Government on issues of national importance, like the 8th Amendment, would be free from abuse.
And, it should be stated clearly, here, that the public only went along with this process on the promise that it would not be corrupted.
But, it was corrupted.
And, although the replacement members in question were hand-picked by RED C's recruiter only in December, 2017 and January, 2018, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that (if nothing changed between July, 2016 and January, 2018) RED C's process of recruitment has seemingly been open to subversion since the inception of the Assembly.
This cannot simply be swept under the carpet, anymore. If it happened in 2013 and, again, now in 2017/8, we have justifiable concerns that the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations on the vital, national issues, which they have been charged with studying, like the 8th Amendment, could be skewed in favour of those points of view which agree with a RED C recruiter.
That is to say that all of the findings of the Citizens' Assembly - and, everything which has followed (including the Oireachtas Committee on Abortion...precisely, because they used the Citizens' Assembly's recommendations as a basis on which to prosecute their hearings and make their own report to the Dail) - could well be compromised.
It is as if some members of the Government are afraid that the people of Ireland might find out that the whole process could have been rigged from the very beginning - an exercise designed to do two things: 1) make a credulous public believe that other Irish citizens "just like them" think a certain way about certain topics; and, 2) bring that same public around to thinking that it's "okay" to hold those same (possibly, fabricated) opinions.
An exercise, in other words, of national consensus building - possibly built on the deception of the entire country.
That this has happened is bad enough, but the fact that a senior minister of the Government seems so arrogant in his ready dismissal of the legitimate concerns of many members of the public, is cause for grave concern.
Given such an amazing lack of concern and seeming disdain for "democratic" processes emanating from the depths of Government Buildings, one could be forgiven for imagining that the RED C recruiter, responsible for inviting his cronies onto the panel, might not have been acting on his own initiative.
For these reasons, this petition calls on some Deputies, who have already expressed concern over the matter, and others, to challenge the Government and the other members of the Dail to establish a Tribunal to investigate the recruitment process for the Citizens' Assembly.
It is only in this way that the Irish public can be reassured that the process of selection for the panel was truly random, and that the whole exercise of "deliberative democracy" might not be the easily manipulable farce which it appears to be.
Thank you for signing this urgent petition!
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
2013 story about similar (highly irregular) situation with the Constitutional Convention's selection process - https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/concern-as-couple-and-set-of-neighbours-are-randomly-selected-for-constitutional-body-29074928.html
One ADDENDUM to this petition - It is interesting to note that, according to the Citizens' Assembly's website (click on the link above), 64% of the "randomly chosen" citizens, participating in the Citizens' Assembly, supported abortion without restriction (from 12 weeks to full-term). But, in a recent Kantar Millward Brown poll (click on the link below), such support for abortion, among the general population, was shown to be at 48% - a full 33% difference in opinion between the "randomly chosen" public of the Citizens' Assembly and the randomly chosen public of Kantar Millward Brown. We fully expect the latter figure to fall, as the ramifications of giving complete control over the life-and-death matter of abortion to untrustworthy and indifferent politicians become better understood.
Recent poll on abortion by Kantar Millward Brown - http://www.thejournal.ie/eighth-amendment-opinion-poll-2-3858374-Feb2018/