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Helping to shape the democratic process in Ireland and Scotland

John Garry
Professor John Garry
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics
Brendan O'Leary
Professor Brendan O'Leary
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics
Jamie Pow
Dr Jamie Pow
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics
John Coakley
Professor John Coakley
School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics
Scales and gavel

Queen’s University research has helped shape the democratic decision-making process in the Republic of Ireland on the highly sensitive issue of abortion provision.

Research Challenge

A SENSITIVE AND CONTENTIOUS ISSUE

Two core features of a well-functioning citizens’ assembly are high quality consideration and deliberation of a policy issue by participants, and a fair and balanced measurement of the participants’ policy recommendations. Queen’s University’s Professor John Garry along with a wider research team from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics were able to provide the Irish Citizens’ Assembly with appropriate high-quality evidence-based advice as a result of their research on political deliberation and attitude measurement.

Our Approach

AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH

The research team have systematically examined the process of citizen deliberation on a range of political topics in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Specifically, the team studied how participants can be effectively provided with: relevant information on a topic; balanced sets of arguments in favour or against particular proposals; and the opportunity to engage in a considered way with a wide range of other participants who hold diverse views and perspectives.

The team also conducted many studies which have systematically examined citizens’ social and political attitudes, and policy preferences, on sensitive topics (including abortion) in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The studies have been based on the careful and objective measurement of citizens’ views using specially designed questionnaires and surveys.

“I have been struck recently by the Irish example of a Citizens’ Assembly to help find consensus on issues where people have sharply divided opinions. Of course, the circumstances here are different, as are the issues under consideration. But the principle is a sound one and I believe we should make use of it. .” 

Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister

What impact did it make?

IMPACT BEYOND IRELAND

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly recommended a liberalisation of Irish abortion law, and this was subsequently supported in a binding referendum vote in May 2018. The Scottish Government has since established its own Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland which was inspired by the Irish model.

Key Facts
  • Professor John Garry served as the only political scientist adviser on the Expert Advisory Group of the Irish Citizens’ Assembly (2016-18), established by the Irish government to consider and make recommendations on abortion law.
  • The Scottish Government has since established its own Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland which was inspired by the Irish model.

 

Our Impact

Impact related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Learn more about Queen’s University’s commitment to nurturing a culture of sustainability and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through research and education.

  • SDG 16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • UN Goal 16 - Peace, justice and strong institutions

Impacting in Countries/Regions

REF Impact Map
Impacted Regions
Impacted Countries

Sub-themes
  • Fundamental rights, equality and social justice
  • Governance, accountability and international relations