Frequently Asked Questions
- How many signatures would be required to initiate a referendum?The required number of signatures will need to be determined based on population. At present the number is 75,000, the number stipulated in the original Irish Free State Constitution of 1922. The optimum number is something that can if necessary be determined by consultation amongst the people and any constitutional amendment decided by referendum.
- Does this mean we will constantly have referenda on everything that happens?It means that we could in theory have a referendum on everything that happens. In reality this would be impractical and unnecessary. To call a referendum the initiator will need to collect the signatures of people who agree with them on their proposal. By requiring a certain number of signatures the direct democratic system will filter out unnecessary referenda.For example, if you think that Ireland should not sell its forests to foreign private investors it is likely that you will collect 75,000 signatures quite easily, indicating that there is agreement amongst the people that the referendum you want to initiate is necessary and is something people feel strongly about, an important issue that needs to be addressed.If you think Ireland should install blue curtains in every public building it is likely you will struggle to collect 75,000 signatures, indicating that there is a lack of interest in such a proposal, it is not something that people feel strongly about, not an important issue and not something that needs to be addressed.
- If direct democracy was in the original constitution how come I have never heard of it?The Irish Free State constitution, written in 1922, included two articles, 47 and 48, which gave the people the three powers listed above. These articles were never used however, as the then government suspended them. When our current constitution, Bunreacht na hEireann, was introduced in 1937 the then government dropped the provisions contained in articles 47 and 48 from the new text. They instead transferred these powers to the government by ‘retaining’ the power to initiate referenda. This was a sleight of hand of massive proportions as they never had these powers to retain in the first place.
- Wouldn’t it still be unworkable though? Wouldn’t there be too many referenda?Direct democracy is not solely about referenda. Direct democracy is about putting the people of the nation in charge of what happens in the nation. Referendums are a part of the mechanism of direct democracy, not it in its entirety. Direct democracy, to function properly, requires the engagement of the people of the nation to decide what they actually want and instruct the government to enact their wishes.In our current situation we elect people to represent us in government for 5 years, based on what they say they will do when in government. Experience has shown us that no matter what they say the reality is that when they get into government they do not fulfil their election promises. At this moment in time it is clear that not only do they not fulfil their promises, they actively destroy, give away and sell this country, its assets and its people. The scale of the destruction and plunder of Ireland and the abuse of the Irish people has reached absolutely shocking proportions and simply cannot be allowed to continue any longer.This activity is possible because there is no mechanism to halt the actions of government, to instruct the government, or to hold government members accountable when they act contrary to their mandate. If there were such a mechanism those in government would be aware that if they attempted anything like what they have been doing for several years now the people would immediately stop them and hold them accountable. They could not do it and if they tried they would be in serious trouble.
If introduced the direct democracy provisions would act as a deterrent to such activity. With such a deterrent in place those in government would be forced to act in accordance with the wishes of the people and as such would act as they are supposed to, which is to run the country in the interests of the people.
In this scenario the government could be left to operate in pretty much the normal way: making policy, running the ministries of state, running the economy, without the constant input of the people on every issue. The people would, however, always have the power to step in if and when necessary to stop bad policies, put forward new policies for implementation, and recall any misbehaving representatives.
- But there are so many issues. I still think there would be far too many referenda for it to be practical!All efficiently functioning groups have a common standard procedure to ensure they are as effective as possible: deal with the biggest issues first.Dealing with the biggest issues first reduces the significance of the subsequent issues and frees up resources to address them thus making them less problematic and easier to resolve, if not doing away with them altogether. This is particularly true in the case of governance of a nation state with a modern economy in which all the functions of government are tied to the economy. All government departments, health service, transport, gardai, welfare etc. cost money and are dependent on a properly functioning economy.In Ireland at the present time we have the most dysfunctional economy possible. We have a ridiculously large national debt which has been criminally foisted on us which is crippling our already crippled economy. This debt is so large that it is un-payable. The only possible way it could be paid is if we had an economic boom. But we are in recession with mass unemployment, mass emigration, failing businesses, mortgage defaults, repossessions, evictions, suicides. These conditions do not contain the possibility of a boom of any sort. There are no green shoots, no corners being turned.
Rather there is the guaranteed acceleration of the recession and the levels of unemployment, emigration, business closures, mortgage defaults, repossessions, evictions, depression and suicides. Ireland is heading for complete economic and societal collapse unless something changes. This eventuality must be avoided. Those in government must take the necessary steps to reverse the conditions crippling the country. Are they doing this? No. Do the people want them to? Yes. So the most pressing issue, the most important one at the top of the priority list which must be dealt with first is the situation which allows the government to ignore the wishes of the people.
This can be dealt with by re-introducing direct democracy provisions which make the government accountable to the people and allow the people to instruct the government on what to do.
With an accountable government in place the second priority becomes the economy and the debt.
If the debt is removed from the equation the need for austerity to pay the debt will disappear along with it and hence so will the need for the sale of state assets, the household charge, property tax, cuts for carers, cuts in children’s allowance, VAT increases, car tax increases etc. These were not necessary before we were loaded up with the debts of the banks and they will not be necessary if we remove the debts of the banks. If the people decide at some point that any of these things are necessary then that will be the people’s decision and the people will have the mechanism to determine where any money raised will go, but at present these things exist as a result of the debt and the Troika instructs our government on what new taxes to introduce and where to spend the money. With the debt removed the economy will have a chance to recover.
One way to help achieve an economic recovery would be to address one of the other highest priorities, one which would again reduce the severity of the subsequent issues: the exploitation of Ireland’s natural resources. Ireland has an estimated 1.5 trillion euros of oil and gas in national waters which is being given away for free to non-national companies. A renegotiation of the terms of these contracts along the lines of other oil-rich nations, at the very least, would create a large revenue stream for the country which would massively increase our ability to address the other pressing issues which require funds, such as job creation, the health service, education, gardai, etc.
In this fashion, dealing with the most pressing issues first, the level of urgency of subsequent issues will reduce, leading to a situation in which the need for regular referenda will reduce as the main problems are addressed and economic and social conditions stabilize.
Most government decisions should not require a referendum. The most important, glaring, massive issues will. Once such issues have been dealt with all remaining issues will be dealt with in the most appropriate manner, via referendum if need be or via the day to day operation of an honest, accountable government.
- Wouldn’t the cost of creating proposals and holding all these referenda be too high?The cost of not creating proposals and holding the necessary referenda will be infinitely higher as all our natural resources, forests, oil, gas, fish and minerals, worth trillions, will be given away or sold and the Irish state and the majority of the Irish people will be permanently indebted. Our sovereignty will be permanently gone, our young people will be gone, and we will ultimately be a depressed, under-populated, ruined outer region of a federal Europe and no longer the proud, sovereign, independent nation of Ireland. If we do not address these issues there will not be an Ireland. DDI believe that is the option which is too costly, and that the benefits; economic, social, personal of engaging the Irish people in a collaborative consultation to determine what our future is to be will prove to be enormously cost effective when it begins to produce results.
- You say that a new government with direct democracy will get rid of the bank debt, how would that be done?Direct Democracy Ireland intends to launch a full, independent, international legal review of the bank bailout upon entering office. We believe and can prove that the bailout is illegal under international law and is what is known as an ‘odious’ debt. As such the bailout and any payments made or pending as a result of the bailout are illegal and we will suspend all payments, capital and interest, pending the results of such legal review. Furthermore, we will demand the repayment of all money transferred under the bailout, a sum of approximately €60 billion thus far, and we will consider any sale of state assets to pay this odious debt and any contracts signed or completed in relation to it as part of the odious debt and hence illegal.
- What is DDI’s position in relation to the other existing parties? Would DDI be willing to go into coalition with any of them?Direct Democracy Ireland is registered as a political party because to enter the current system in a credible way which has a chance of success it must do so. Direct Democracy Ireland use the term ‘political service’ to describe the group because the members of DDI, in common with most Irish people, deplore the reality of the party political system and have no intention of operating in the same fashion as conventional political parties, i.e. the party whip system which forces members to follow the ‘party line’, despite what their constituents tell them they want.This system has led to the ruinous situation in which we now find ourselves as a people and as a country. Party politics has been completely exposed in this country as a dysfunctional, corrupt and downright dangerous system which cannot be allowed to continue. DDI will not need to do anything in this regard however as the system has engineered its own demise simply by existing. It has shown itself up for what it is, and any honest member of the current political parties cannot but see this.DDI intend to put the power in the hands of the people, and to actually do so not just say so. By re-introducing direct democracy provisions into the constitution as first priority DDI will ensure that it is held to its promises and that the people of Ireland will have the final say on all matters.
DDI believe that reintroducing direct democracy can solve the problem of party politics because with the addition of direct democracy political parties will become obsolete and irrelevant. Giving the people ultimate control means the people can overrule the party whip, prevent any party or party line becoming dominant, and prevent any actions being taken or laws passed which are contrary to the interests of the people. The era of ‘left vs. right’ in Irish politics will end, because it will be superseded by a better system of ‘in the interests of the Irish people or not in the interests of the Irish people’, as decided by the Irish people.
The Irish constitution does not mention political parties once. The original constitution on the other hand did include direct democracy. So it seems we the Irish people have been denied a means of proper governance for 91 years, contrary to the intentions of the framers of the constitution, and instead given a dysfunctional party political system, also contrary to the intentions of the framers of the constitution and the intentions of every Irishman and woman who fought for Irish freedom over the past 843 years.
Every political party and political activist group claim that they want what is best for the Irish people. If they genuinely mean this, as most party members and group members presumably do, then they cannot honestly be against the principles of direct democracy because direct democracy puts the people in charge of the nation. There is no more effective means of doing what is best for a people than to put them in charge of their own destiny and their own property. That is the definition of freedom. Anyone who is against giving people their freedom is by definition in support of their enslavement.
No sane person would choose slavery over freedom, or vote for anyone who would enslave them.DDI encourage all party members and activists to support the re-introduction of direct democracy and will be happy to work with anyone pursuing this goal and who supports the creation of a national consultation process to develop government policy from community level up.
- But democracy is ‘mob rule’!
In the recent referenda which took place in Ireland a relatively small section of the population made changes to the Irish constitution.
The Children’s Referendum: Electorate: 3,231,027 Turnout: 33.5% Yes: 57.4% (615,731) No: 33.5% (445,863) % of electorate who carried the vote: 19.42% Fiscal Compact Treaty: Electorate: 3,144,828 Turnout: 50.6% (1,591,385) Yes: 60.29% (955,091) No: 39.71% (629,088) % of electorate who carried the vote: 30.5% Lisbon Treaty II: Electorate: 3,078,032 Turnout: 59% (1,816,098) Yes: 67.13% (1,214,268) No: 32.87% (594,606) % of the electorate who carried the vote: 39.6% Lisbon Treaty: Electorate: 3,051,278 Turnout: 53.13% (1,621,037) Yes: 46.60% (752,451) No: 53.40% 53.40% % of the electorate who carried the vote: 28.4%
It can be seen from these figures that the voting system is less than ideal. That such a small percentage of a population can make decisions for the whole population is a situation which needs to be addressed.
DDI propose the introduction of a voting majority which requires a percentage, for example 67% to 33%, for a referendum to be passed.
DDI also propose a minimum voter turnout below which a referendum will be invalid.
These are proposals, suggestions on which DDI encourage nationwide debate. What is the optimum solution to this situation? This is for the Irish people to decide.
- Could direct democracy be abused to allow special interest groups in Ireland to collaborate to create and pass referenda with which the majority of people do not agree?At present in Ireland we participate in referenda only when the government deem it necessary. The government choose the subject and timing of the referenda, and only recently were found to have acted illegally in using public money to propagandise one side of the Children’s Referendum. Also recently the government called and held a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish people voted No and then the government, on the instructions of European Union bureaucrats, made us repeat the referendum and propagandised us into voting Yes.It can be clearly seen that both these referenda were created and passed by special interest groups: the government and their EU masters and the financial powers standing behind both. The people did not agree with the Lisbon Treaty, as evidenced by the No vote, yet we were forced to vote again and threatened, tricked and cajoled into voting Yes. The promised outcomes of the Yes vote never materialised, in fact the opposite happened, and yet those responsible for creating and passing the referendum have not been held accountable in any way.The turnout for these referenda were very low, especially so in the case of the Children’s referendum, a symptom of the apathy, confusion, disillusionment, disconnection and lack of interest in both the referendum itself and in those pushing for it.
The Irish people have had it with politicians and their chicanery and simply stayed away from the polls. This was in many ways a vote of no confidence in the political system, but the result was not a rethink by government or an attempt to reconnect with the voters. Far from it. The result was the passing of yet another referendum which benefits the government and their financial and EU colleagues. When the result was in they turned their attention to writing the accompanying legislation for the constitutional amendment, paying no attention to the small turnout or the large No vote, which was within a few percent of the Yes vote despite the outrageous bias of the information campaign which saw the country completely covered with Yes posters and hardly a single No poster and an information booklet openly pushing the Yes argument. What would the result have been had the information campaign been balanced equally between Yes and No? The maths says unambiguously that the result would have been No. What would the government have done then? Called another vote? Going on recent history it is extremely likely. This situation is a dangerous farce, and is precisely the fear raised in the question.
Direct Democracy Ireland intend to restore confidence in the decision making process by putting the decision making process into the hands of the people, to create the situation in which any referenda held in the country are the result of collaboration between people working together to come up with ideas, refining the ideas into proposals, networking to gather the support of a significant percentage of the population, and putting the proposals to the government to put to the people at large to decide on. This method of putting ideas to the people to decide on will be very different to the current method, which under honest examination is dysfunctional and contrary to the interests of the Irish people.
- It’s all very well to say the people will come up with proposals but how in reality will that ever happen? People are not interested in politics, it will be impossible to organise, how do you intend to do it?People are not interested in politics because we the people do not own the political system. It is not working for us. We are external to it and seemingly powerless to influence it. DDI intend to change this situation by implementing the measures outlined thus far, as a start, to empower the Irish People to take back control of our political system and make it work for us, as it was intended to.To achieve this DDI intend to initiate, encourage and support a nationwide collaborative consultation process via which the Irish people collectively discuss, debate and develop solutions to the issues facing the Irish people and the Irish nation.