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Mar 2012

Is modern democracy still democratic? That is the question that was explored last week at a symposium being held at the National University of Ireland in Dublin. The symposium, entitled‘Beyond the Ballot’: forms of citizen engagement between democratic elections is the initiative of the participatory and deliberative democracy specialist group of the Political Studies Association of Ireland, led by Dr Clodagh Harris from Department of Government, UCC and Dr Gemma Carney from the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway.  

The symposium explored how the collapse of social partnership and the signing of EU-IMF deals has pushed relationships between the government and ordinary voters in Ireland into a state of crisis.

Dr Gemma Carney of NUI Galway’s Irish Centre for Social Gerontology: “This does not sit with international rhetoric that 'People Matter.' The idea that people matter; that ordinary citizens should have a direct influence over how decisions are made in a democratic system is supposedly a cornestone of UN, EU and national government policies. But does that hold true in practice?”

The rise of e-democracy, forms of public protest, new political movements arising in response to a feeling of powerlessness would seem to suggest that people are becoming ever further removed from and disillusioned by their governments.

Papers presented by leading international and national experts on deliberative and participatory democracy adressed these issues and discussed new institutional and civil society mechanisms to enhance citizen engagement such as the G1000 Belgian citizens’ summit, The ‘We The Citizens’ Citizens Assembly and the Claiming our Future movement.

The symposium took place on Thursday, 15 March in the NUI offices on Merrion Square in Dublin 2, with the keynote speech by Professor Jurg Steiner of the University of North Carolina on the praxis of deliberation.  Read the report here

Please contact gemma.carney@nuigalway.ie (086-3282336) or clodagh.harris@ucc.ie/ (087 9083450) for further information.


Note for Editors: This event is open to the public and is joint funded by the IRCHSS and the PSA.


About Irish Centre for Social Gerontology at NUI Galway

The Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG) is a multidisciplinary research centre on ageing at NUI Galway established in 2006. ICSG focuses on research, education and training in the field of social gerontology in Ireland and internationally. ICSG was established jointly by the University and through a generous donation from Atlantic Philanthropies. Dr Gemma Carney is a lead researcher on politics, ageing and policy design at the ICSG. (www.icsg.ie)


The Political Studies Association of Ireland was established in 1982 with the purpose of promoting the study of politics both in and outside of Ireland. It adopted a constitution and a formal structure in 1984, when it also began organising an annual conference. The PSAI also produces a number of publications including Irish Political Studies. (www.psai.ie). Dr Clodagh Harris is currently co-convenor of the specialist group on participatory and deliberative democracy of the Political Studies Association of Ireland.