Many people describe Ireland as a democratic “Sovereign” Nation. However sovereignty is only a concept, and is nothing more than the right of a people to choose their government and determine the “laws” by which they are governed. If a government limits the free exercise of those democratic rights or fails to provide a mechanism by which the people can exercise those democratic rights then the people cannot be described as “Sovereign”.
Article 6 of the Irish Constitution proclaims:
…….. All powers of government, legislative, executive and judicial, derive, under God, from the people, whose right it is to designate the rulers of the State ….. and in final appeal, to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good……..
While the first part of that article “to designate the rulers of the State” is satisfied by the holding of general elections the second part “to decide all questions of national policy, according to the requirements of the common good” cannot be exercised as there is no mechanism by which the people can exercise that right. The people cannot initiate changes to government policy or to laws or to change the constitution. Yes we have occasional referendum, but only if the government approves and only if the government lays a bill for the amendment of the constitution before Dail Eireann.
We did have such a provision for a “People’s Initiative” in the 1922 (Free State) constitution, (article 48) but that was quickly removed by the Cosgrave government, and despite much talk no provision has ever been made or even discussed by any subsequent Irish government to restore the “Citizens Initiative”. indeed the ability of the people to challenge any Law Act or Measure as being unconstitutional was diluted when we joined the E.E.C. by the amendment of article 29 section 4 subsection 6 of our constitution in 1972 which provided:
“…. No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State necessitated by the obligations of membership of the Communities or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the Communities, or institutions thereof, from having the force of law in the State……..”