Saturday, 09 April 2022 – The Taoiseach, Michéal Martin, has formally launched the two new Citizens’ Assemblies on Biodiversity Loss and a Directly Elected Mayor for Dublin, at an inaugural joint meeting of both Assemblies in Dublin Castle today.
The meeting was held virtually with the 99 members of the Biodiversity Loss Assembly and the 79 members of the Dublin Assembly joining the two Chairs, Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and Jim Gavin, for the formal launch. They also heard from three participants of previous Citizens’ Assemblies about their experiences of how the Assemblies work, operate, and the influence they can have on national policymaking.
Dr Clodagh Harris of University College Cork also outlined the growing importance of deliberative and consultative democracy in Ireland, Europe, and around the world.
The two Assemblies are the fourth to meet, following the initial 2013-2014 Convention on the Constitution, the 2016-2018 Citizens’ Assembly on the Eighth Amendment, our aging population, referenda, fixed term parliaments and climate change, and the 2021 Citizens’ Assembly on Gender Equality.
At the conclusion of today’s meetings both Assemblies met privately to discuss the work programme for each that will run in parallel through the course of the year. The Assemblies will then produce a series of recommendations that will be sent for consideration to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Addressing the combined 178 members of the Assemblies and the two Chairs by video message, The Taoiseach Micheál Martin commented, “I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak with you at the inaugural meeting of the Citizens’ Assemblies on Biodiversity Loss, and on a Directly Elected Mayor for Dublin.
“Once again, we are at an important moment in the political and democratic life of this country – and once again we are placing the people at the heart of the consideration of proposals which could have a significant impact on the way we live our lives.
“These two new Citizens’ Assemblies will provide a means by which everyday people, who normally don’t get the opportunity to be involved in policy development or legislative proposals, to make a very real and direct contribution to the State’s response to both Biodiversity Loss and the structure of Local Government in Dublin.
“I would like to thank Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin and Jim Gavin for accepting my invitation to chair these two Assemblies, and I would like to thank all members most sincerely for their participation – go raibh míle maith agaibh. Be assured that the Government, and the Houses of the Oireachtas, are listening and waiting to hear what everyone has to say.”
Dr Ní Shúilleabháin commented, “It is an honour for me to have the opportunity to Chair the Citizens’ Assembly on Biodiversity Loss, and I would like to thank the Taoiseach for appointing me to the role.
“Biodiversity loss is a major global, European, national, and local issue. It, perhaps, doesn’t get the focus it deserves, but it is a problem that is damaging the planet that affects us all. From the health of the soil, to the quality of the food we eat; from the populations of flora and fauna around us, to the cleanliness of the water we drink. Curbing biodiversity loss and regenerating our country is an enormous challenge, but one that I believe we can make a difference on. Indeed, Ireland can be a global leader in this space.
“I am really looking forward to working with you, the members of the Assembly, in deciding how Ireland should meet this challenge and I look forward to learning with you and from you about this issue over the coming months. Our job will be to listen, to learn, to collaborate on, and then to communicate our recommendations to the Oireachtas and our own communities. This will be exciting and important work which I hope will lead to sustainable and lasting change for the benefit of the generations of the future.”
Dublin Assembly Chair, Jim Gavin, commented, “It is a great honour and privilege to have been appointed as Chairman of the Dublin Citizens' Assembly. When I was asked to consider the role of chair, I accepted without hesitation. I want Dublin to take its place amongst the great cities of the world - renowned for its quality of life, its sustainable environment, it's cultural and economic vibrancy, its diversity. I want to see the city of the three castles tower to its historic best, a landmark for excellence, inclusion, innovation and community.
“Like all cities Dublin faces major challenges ranging from housing, to transport, to infrastructure, to sustainability and lots more. These are challenges that effect the daily lives of all Dubliners. And the members of the Dublin Assembly have a unique opportunity to listen to all the challenges and opportunities and make recommendations to the Oireachtas on how we can make Dublin an even better place to live, work and raise a family.
“But I want also to appeal to all people living in Dublin and ask them to engage in our work. There is no wrong door into this Citizens' Assembly – you can of course make a traditional written submission on the website and come in the front door, but the people of Dublin and beyond are welcome to come in the back door, through the windows, the skylight or even down the chimney to make your voice heard.
“So let's have your TikTok videos, your Whatsapp conversations, your twitter comments, your Instagram pictures. We will embrace all formats and all platforms – the most important thing is that we get to hear what you have to say.”
The Assemblies will now meet separately throughout the course of 2022 with both due to complete their work by the end of the year.
The first meeting of the Dublin Assembly will take place Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May at the Grand Hotel, Malahide, with the first meeting of the Biodiversity Assembly scheduled for 14th May.
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