In this issue of Working Notes we examine the report on Private Property of the All- Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution Property, published in April 2004. The Report followed a request from the Taoiseach in February 2000 to “consider the present constitutional provisions in respect of property rights and specifically the necessity for up-dating those provisions which pertain to planning controls and infrastructural development”.
In the light of the recent constitutional amendment on citizenship it is interesting to look at the process by which the constitutional provisions on Private Property were reviewed. Following wide consultation, in which the Committee received 140 written submissions from individuals, groups and organizations and subsequently held oral hearings, a comprehensive 133 page report and a further 300 pages in appendices were compiled. The Report includes a detailed review of the constitutional provisions on private property and existing case law, the property market and the planning system, which enabled well-founded conclusions and clear recommendations to be made.
In contrast there was no public consultation prior to proposing the recent change to the Constitution in respect of the right to citizenship. It was not deemed necessary that the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution should consider the issue. Consequently, the debate was held in the absence of a thorough analysis. The result was that much information was at the level of anecdote and general impression; the failure of the Government to produce comprehensive research findings hindered a full and balanced assessment of the issues and the consideration of a range of possible policy responses.
The Constitution represents a privileged source and statement of values in Ireland. I believe that, in bypassing established procedures that ensure full public consultation and thorough analysis of issues prior to constitutional change, the Government did a disservice to all people who reside on this island.
Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice