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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Ceisteanna – Questions - Citizens' Assembly [25030/20 & 26525/20].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Ceisteanna – Questions - Citizens' Assembly [25030/20 & 26525/20]. (29 Sep 2020)

URL: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...


Question: 1. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his plans for a new citizens' assembly in 2021. [25030/20]
Question: 2. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Taoiseach his plans to establish a citizens' assembly in 2021. [26525/20] 

Micheál Martin The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

Under the programme for Government, the Government is committed to establishing a citizens’ assembly in 2021 to consider the type of directly elected mayor and local government structures best suited for Dublin. The work of the current Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality has been interrupted and delayed by the impact of Covid-19. It was originally scheduled to hold meetings in the period from March to July and issue its report in the summer. It has had to adapt its methods to comply with public health guidelines but will resume its work with online meetings in October and over the coming months, with the aim of reporting by June 2021. I commend all the members of the assembly on their commitment to their work in the face of the challenges presented by Covid. Their civic-minded dedication to completing their task will ensure we can make substantial advances on gender equality, based on their findings and recommendations. 

The experience of the current assembly in operating online will inform the approach to the other citizens' assemblies to be undertaken in line with the programme for Government. The Dublin mayor Citizens' Assembly will be established with a new chairperson and new members following completion of the current assembly. The programme for Government also provides for the establishment of citizens' assemblies to consider matters relating to drug use, biodiversity and the future of education. Officials from my Department are engaging with officials from the relevant Departments on the approach to be taken to these assemblies. It is envisaged they will be established after the Dublin mayor Citizens' Assembly has completed its work, but the specific timing of each assembly has yet to be worked out.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Bernard J. Durkan): I call Deputy Ó Ríordáin, who is deputising for Deputy Kelly. 

Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: All the issues to be discussed by the citizens' assembly are important but none more so than that of drugs. The Minister of State with responsibility for the national drugs strategy has stated in the House that he has twice written to the Taoiseach to try to find out when the citizens' assembly might take place. There is a feeling that in the middle of a pandemic, all that momentum for radical drug reform that had been building for years, on issues such as drug use, addiction and recovery, has, unfortunately, been lost. When the opportunity arose within the programme for Government to announce the potential for a citizens' assembly, it was seized on by those in this area as a great opportunity. We hope the Taoiseach will give more of a commitment as to when and how that citizens' assembly might meet. 

The Taoiseach knows the issues around decriminalisation are very important, such as trying to take people out of the criminal justice system and treating drug use as a purely medical issue. 

I suggest that the Taoiseach has an opportunity, given that he has a Seanad space free. While political parties will do whatever they can to make sure a particular candidate meets the criteria, and while I know it is the agricultural panel, would it not be quite powerful for the Taoiseach to do what he can to ensure that somebody who advocates for drug users and those in recovery could fill that space in the Seanad? It could be somebody like Tony Geoghegan, Philly McMahon or Peter McVerry. I know the criteria of the agricultural panel have to be fit, but at the same time, such an appointment would indicate to those who care deeply about this issue that the Government cares deeply about it and that it wants somebody in these Houses who has an intimate understanding of the complexities of it. 

Also, we need to know when the citizens' assembly will sit, because while I can speak about the health elements of this problem, for far too many families there is clearly a violent gang element to it as well, which is literally killing people on the streets in my constituency and throughout the country. We need a firmer commitment from the Taoiseach along the lines on which I have spoken. We need dates and we need to know the Government is on the side of these families and communities.

Continues…

Item Type
Dail Debates
Publication Type
Irish-related
Drug Type
Substances (not alcohol/tobacco)
Intervention Type
General / Comprehensive, Policy
Date
29 September 2020
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