Article 48 of the 1922 Constitution provided for the "Initiation by the people of proposals for laws or constitutional amendments". Article 48 was removed from the Constitution of the Irish Free State in 1928 by the government of the day without the consent of the Irish people. (Watch the History of Article 48 video here)
The power of people to make their own laws is also known as "Direct Democracy". It's the democratic system that has been in place in Switzerland for over 150 years and it places the people as the supreme rulers of the state.
Direct Democracy empowers people, via popular initiatives and referendums, to directly block unpopular new laws or government policy and to hold the government to account when it breaks its election promises or pursues policies that the majority of citizens believe are not in their best interests.
Direct Democracy could enable the electorate to:
- block unpopular new laws or government policy,
- put forward proposals to make new laws or change existing laws.
If the government decided to introduce a new "bank bailout" scheme then any citizen could start an initiative to prevent this. First they would need to collect a defined number of signatures (i.e. 50,000) from citizens on the electoral role supporting the initiative. This would then be presented to the government who could either accept the popular initiative or, if not, would be required to put the initiative to a national referendum. If a majority of the people voted in the referendum in favour of the initiative then by law the government could not introduce a new "bank bailout" scheme.
Important issues such as the privatisation of Irish Water, Coillte forests or other natural resources, Irish neutrality, fracking, GMOs, bank bailouts, etc, could be decided by popular initiatives and referendums involving the people of Ireland rather than simply the government of the day. With Direct Democracy the people of Ireland are the ones who have the final say in important decisions. As it should be.
Here is how popular initiatives work in Switzerland.
Convention on the Constitution
In August 2013, the Fourth Report of the Convention on the Constitution, Dáil Electoral System, recommended that ‘Direct Democracy’ (i.e. citizens initiatives ) with adequate safeguards be introduced.
On the 18th December 2014 the Government responded to the recommendations of the Fourth Report of the Convention on the Constitution. The Government's response is best summarised as "Thanks, but no thanks". So rather than asking the people of Ireland in a referendum whether they would like to have "Direct Democracy" the government gave us the "Age of Presidential Candidates Referendum". This was of course not at all surprising as "Direct Democracy" would place a check on the powers of Government and as the old saying goes; "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas".
Under the current constitution, the only time at which the people of Ireland have a say in the running of this state is when they are asked to elect their representatives at a General Election held every five years or so.
Reinstate 48 initiative
The Reinstate 48 (R48) initiative seeks to restore Article 48 to the Irish Constitution by asking the people of Ireland to make a pledge to only vote for candidates (from any political party or independents) in the next General Election who have themselves pledged to restore Article 48 to the Irish Constitution. If enough voters make the pledge then the candidates will follow "Like bees to honey". Of course some candidates will embrace the Reinstate 48 initiative from the start and you will know these by their R48 Candidate Pledge number.
Reinstate 48 is not a political party and has no connection to any political party. There are no members, no committees, no leaders, no spokespeople, no grandstanding, no policies, no donations, no expenses, no salaries, no pensions, no cronyism, no influence peddling and no tents at the Galway races.
Reinstate 48 is simply an initiative to restore the "Republic", as originally envisaged by the founders of the Irish Free State and explicitly expressed in Article 48 of the 1922 Constitution, in which the people were the ultimate rulers of Ireland.
Who is behind the Reinstate 48 initiative?
A group of people (with no political party allegiances) that believe, as the founders of the Irish Free State did, that Ireland would be better governed if the people had the direct power to make, mould, amend and repeal their own laws. Also anyone who makes the R48 Pledge and spreads the word about the R48 initiative is also an essential part of the R48 Team.
The Reinstate 48 Organising Committee members include James Coyle, Hilary Dully, Marie Louise Kenny, Stephen Mulcahy, Donal O'Brolcháin and Líadain von der Decken.
Watch the following short videos to learn more about "Direct Democracy";