A new short film shows behind the scenes of the Citizens’ Assembly.
Film-maker Patrick Chalmers' 17-minute film is the first in a nine-part series on the democratic innovations shaking up the world.
With interviews with Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell (Dublin Bay South) and Irish-based intellectual Roslyn Fuller, the film shows how the Repeal the 8th movement really got a footing when a bunch of ordinary people turned up to the Assembly this summer to talk about abortion and the Constitution’s 8th Amendment.
“This issue in Ireland could never have gotten to the point we’re at today, were it not for the Citizens’ Assembly,” Kate O’Connell says during the film, “I think we would have been years getting there, if we ever got there.”
Believe it or not, the Assembly is regarded as one of the most cutting-edge democratic experiments in the world.
“I went to a conference in South Africa last year and people there were congratulating me on the work of the Citizens’ Assembly and the similar Constitutional Convention, which led to the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015,” says Roslyn Fuller, a former model and now a researcher who specializes in democratic innovation.
“It makes you realize that what we are doing is actually pretty cool, and that we’re leading the way on a form of politics that’s going to radically change the world and likely replace the existing political power structures as we know them.”
Not only are the Constitutional Convention and Citizens’ Assembly famous, they’ve been pretty famously liberal, too. Some of the past recommendations include changing the ‘women in the home’ clause in the Constitution to be more gender neutral, removing the blasphemy provision from the Constitution, and putting in rights like housing and social security. The Taoiseach has tentatively slated a referendum on abortion for Spring next year, with blasphemy and ‘women in the home’ on the agenda for the Autumn.
“I saw myself moving, and I think a lot of the people to their surprise started moving, to a pro-choice position [as the Assembly progressed],” one of the participants says in the film, indicating one of the points that researchers have long held to be true: that the more people talk, the more open-minded they tend to get.
You can watch the film here.
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