Participatory Constitutionalism and the Agenda for Constitutional Change: Socio-economic Issues in Irish Constitutional Debates

Joanne McEvoy, Jennifer Todd, Dawn Walsh

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Abstract

Processes of constitution making and change increasingly involve popular participation and deliberation. Though constitutional theory assumes positive outcomes of participation, we know relatively little about the role of citizens in shaping the constitutional process. This article investigates how the participation of grassroots communities can shape the constitutional agenda, widening debate beyond institutional models to include everyday issues of importance to citizens. In parallel research projects in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, we explored how diverse communities (women’s groups, ethnic minority communities and youth) approach the constitutional question. Participants expressed a desire to participate and a clear intention to change the questions away from contentious high-constitutional issues of sovereignty and borders towards ‘bread and butter’ socio-economic issues. We discuss the ways in which socio-economic issues may be of constitutional significance, we draw lessons from comparative experience, and we propose ways to advance the research agenda on participatory constitutionalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-171
Number of pages33
JournalIrish Studies in International Affairs
Volume33
Issue number2
Early online date18 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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