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People with Politicians: Innovations in Deliberative Democracy

Jane Suiter
Dublin City University
David Farrell
University College Dublin
Clodagh Harris
University College Cork
Eoin O'Malley
Dublin City University
Jane Suiter
Dublin City University

Abstract

While experiments in or examples of deliberative democracy are now more common, they have rarely been successfully used to make real decisions at a national level. This paper argues that one of the reasons for the success of the Irish Constitutional Convention is that it was made up of a mix of randomly chosen citizens with professional politicians. We show that the two groups gave two vital elements: legitimacy and a political acceptability. We utilise a survey of all politicians including those who did and did not participate to show that elected politicians who were involved in the process became champions of the Convention’s recommendations and that the involvement of citizens depoliticized the issue and allowed parties that might have been reluctant to support change to point to the public nature of the process.