The Blanket


A journal of protest & dissent


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead


Accomodating Diversity

Towards A Second Republic - A Basic Framework


Ciarán Irvine


Having analysed our core requirements for an Irish system of Government that might actually work -and lead to an end to decades (centuries!) of communal strife - we are now ready to consider one possible model. The basic building blocks are as follows:

  • High Decentralisation - The Second Republic should be organised at the lowest level possible, probably even smaller than the current county model. In fact, this is the very way our ancestors arranged their affairs with 80-100 tuatha across the island back in Brehonic days. This is necessary to allow local communities a real sense of control over their own destinies, helps counter some of the more negative ravages of globalisation, and acts as a preventative measure against any future regional or national tyrannies. Measures discussed below will provide oversight to prevent local tyrannies emerging! The precise number and boundaries of such local units should be flexible over time via a defined agreed procedure.

  • Treaty-making Powers - Technically at least, the individual German Lander and Swiss Cantons can negotiate and conclude their own individual treaties, as States, with foreign governments outside their Federation - provided of course such treaties do not infringe on the Federal Constitution or the sovereignty of the whole. Thus, in Ireland, a local area in say North Down may have certain formal treaty links with Great Britain in order to give a more concrete expression of the British identity of the locals, without the good residents of say, South Armagh being unduly troubled by such developments.

  • Equality of Representatives - Political representatives at local or national level will not be categorised or their composition monitored in any way apart from their party affiliation (if any). The voice, and vote, of one representative is formally equal to that of any other, apart from official office holders (e.g. Chair of a local council, national Taoiseach, Opposition party Leaders) who by virtue of position and the necessity of accountability must speak more. All votes are always equal.

  • Qualified Majority Voting - Rather than the GFA “concurrent consent” mechanism that enshrines sectarianism, the same end result could be achieved with a more flexible system. The undervaluation of “Other” votes in the GFA system is also to be avoided. In reality none of the GFAs elaborate system is necessary. A simple “Declaration of Concern”, signed by a significant number of representatives - say 20% - would be enough to bring about a qualified majority vote where a higher percentage - say 65% or 70% - is required to allow a measure to succeed. In the absence of a Declaration of Concern the simple 50%+1 rule would suffice.

  • Federal System, via Subsidiarity - The all-Ireland level of Government should have limited powers, being only those explicitly agreed to by the local authorities, and only those where it is necessary to conduct matters at a national level. I believe in retaining the PR-STV electoral system and the current European “Executive-from-Legislature” model from the existing Republic while increasing the powers of a new (directly elected) Seanad considerably. The Presidency should remain directly elected by popular vote, but with some extensions to the Presidential powers (see below).

  • Written Constitution - for the entire island, whereby certain strictly delimited powers are passed upwards to the all-Ireland level. The Federal parliament should be Constitutionally charged with the simple provision to ensure and enforce Equality of Opportunity of all Citizens. This neatly side steps the problems of “Rights” discussed above - the Citizen’s primary right is to equality of opportunity in a meritocratic society. Any behaviour by others, which infringes this right, is a Federal offence. Citizens thus have a responsibility to ensure they do not act to unfairly keep others in a position of disadvantage when they have the talent, education and/or native ability to do better. This is the only meaningful benchmark of a truly civilised society.

  • Four-Branch Government - removing the function of ultimate enforcement of Constitutional Rights from the Courts would appear to be necessary, given the flawed and fallible way the courts have persued Rights litigation in recent decades. Also, we have seen in Ireland how the current three-branch system has utterly failed to prevent serious high-level corruption. Therefore, a Fourth Branch. The concept was indirectly inspired by the German Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Deffence of the Constitution) which mainly monitors “subversive” groups. I propose a Council of State, made up of directly elected representatives (perhaps 2 from each province plus the President), elected for 5-year terms, maximum 2 terms. Candidates must not have held any other elected position or official Party position of a party represented in the Federal Parliament for a period of 5 years prior to announcing their candidature. The CoS refers proposed legislation to the Supreme Court; hears final appeals on Equality-based cases; has the power to initiate investigations of alleged Equality abuses and political corruption; and acts as Prosecutor in impeachment hearings. The President sits as head of the CoS. While a much more active position than the current Presidency it is firmly in keeping with and a mere extension to the “Guardian of the Constitution” role envisaged in the 1937 Constitution. National domestic and foreign policy would remain in the hands of the Taoiseach.

Note that while none of this mentions precise socio-economic policies, the very structure is designed with the aim of creating a society where individual citizens enjoy liberty to organise their lives in their own way while offering strong protection from corruption, discrimination, systemic inequality and tyranny. It accomodates the needs of any and all ethnic, religious and national groupings within the broad Irish Nation without explicitly singling any in particular out for special mention -and thus potentially unwelcome attention. It is libertarian, egalitarian, and republican in all the best senses of those words.

It is in summary a solid blueprint for the future of Ireland - this island we all call Home.




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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002

Republican Voices