The first Irish Constitutional Convention: A case of “high legitimacy”?

Special report–Sortition in the twenty-first century
By Jane Suiter, David M. Farrell, Clodagh Harris, Eoin O’Malley

This paper examines the working of the first Irish Constitutional Convention held in 2013. It was argued that using a deliberative approach to reform the Constitution would be valuable as it would directly involve citizens in decisions of constitutional reform, thereby enhancing diminished democratic legitimacy and potentially re-configuring democratic practice. The Convention led to a referendum to recognize marriage equality, with Ireland becoming the first country to institute such equality by popular vote. This paper examines all facets of the Convention, deploying a framework of input, throughput, and output legitimacy. We find that it is in two of the areas that were initially a strong source of criticism—its composition and remit—that the Convention has been truly innovative in ways that have contributed to its legitimacy across multiple dimensions.


  • deliberation
  • citizen assembly
  • legitimacy
  • Ireland
  • marriage equality
  • constitutions
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