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Home The News Latest News Time for a written Constitution?

Time for a written Constitution?

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PAG has made a written submission to a Joint Committee which is considering the constitutional principles raised by The Electoral Reform Bill 2011.

As well as calling for LegCo to be popularly elected (which is in the PAG Charter) the Bill makes two main proposals.

First, that the Island should be divided into eight constituencies; and second, that each constituency should return three MHKs and one MLC.

'Constitutional principles' implies that the IoM may have a written Constitution, which it clearly doesn't.

But is it time that we did consider such a legal document?

The Constitution of Ireland has operated since 1937. There have been 25 adopted subsequent amendments, the last being in 2004.

It has evolved over the years to reflect the changing norms of society. As this extract from Article 1 states "to develop its life, political, economic and cultural"

What impact can a written Constitution have on the lives of ordinary people?

Well, in Ireland, if this video is anything to go by, potentially a considerable effect.

The video is very amusing, but has serious political and legal undertones.

Try and stay with it for about 14 minutes and you'll see what we mean.



0 #11 ....differing viewsZephor 2012-09-29 19:49
I've read the many times revised Irish Constitution and feel comfortable about its fundamental principles.

An IOM Constitution in some way may help to offset the inbuilt democratic deficit we have.

A friend of mine recently sent me this quote from Justice Oliver Wendell Homes:

"A Constitution is made for people of fundamentally differing views"

That's a healthy democratic position
+8 #10 Re: Difficulty in Identifying Constitutional ImplicationsJason Postlethwaite 2012-03-16 18:05
Hi Zephor

I would be very interested to learn your findings concerning the Irish constitution. It would perhaps be worth considering attempted amendments that have been overruled by the courts.

I’m afraid that my legal knowledge is not such that I could offer definitive answers to the constitutional implications of an elected Legco. Having said that, if you had 12 lawyers around a table, you would probably end up with 13 different legal opinions. And if there was no legal opinion to your liking, then you could always hire another lawyer.

The only thing I would comment on would be the articles assertion that without a written constitution it is hard to identify the constitutional implications. I can certainly see the difficulty in this since all the strands that have gone into making our constitutional arrangements through the annuls of time must be gathered and considered.

However, I would imagine that this must have been required when Scotland and Wales received devolved powers from the United Kingdom in 1998. As far as I am aware, it only took an Act of Parliament to establish the means and methods in which bills were to be considered in the devolved legislatures. This must have been achieved without a written constitution as the United Kingdom has no codified document.

Interestingly, the UK’s Coalition Government is looking into the ways and means of delivering a popularly elected House of Lords, with the first elections to take place in 2015. I will be very interested to see whether they manage to achieve this, and even more interested in whether a written constitution would be required for such a change in the upper house. I would suggest that an Act of Parliament would be enough.

Looking forward to hear from you regarding the Irish Constitution

Kind Regards
0 #9 Back to the original article!Guest 2012-03-16 16:14
Jason - your underlying message heartens me, but I'd like to return to the origins of this discussion - the PAG article.
The Joint Select Committee is considering the constitutional principles raised by The Electoral Reform Bill 2011.
With your obvious greater knowledge can you say what these constitutional principles might be?
The article states that without a written constitution it is difficult to identify them.
In the meantime I'm going to look at the Constitution of Ireland and track the amendments since 1937. Then I'll try to identify how your argument fits in with it or otherwise.
+10 #8 A written Constitution - At What Cost?Jason Postlethwaite 2012-03-15 18:33
Thank you Zephor for the interesting point you make on mortality, and as the economist Keynes stated, ‘in the long run we are all dead’. An example that makes your point is Samuel Norris, the radical liberal I mentioned in my piece before, who campaigned on many of the great liberal issues of his day, but never lived to see them come to fruition.

I understand your wish to see within our lifetime greater representation through FIO, & a popularly elected Chief Minister & LegCo. However, to achieve this through a written constitution would entrench our values, but also our prejudices and our ignorance, thereby creating democratic problems for the future. A future where trappings of an elected Chief Minister & LegCo, & FOI are acquired at the expense of parliamentary sovereignty, serving only to place our democracy in a potentially perilous position for generations to come.

What do I mean by a perilous position for generations to come? I mean the real potential for such a document to be interpreted in ways that it was never designed for. This can be seen through the rulings of judges in Strassbourg who legislate through the European Court of Human Rights. In other words, judges may use the pretext of what is constitutional & unconstitutiona l to rule in areas that the document was never intended. This would certainly undermine parliamentary sovereignty since this would allow unelected judges, often far removed from democratic accountability, to make rulings that would be binding to our elected representatives . So while the next generation will want to campaign on the issues of their day, we may very well have made their task harder; it would not be elected politicians who they would have to convince of the merits of their arguments & objectives, since we would have bound the hands of our elected officials in favour of unelected, legally independent judges who would inevitably be policing what is, & is not, constitutional.

You make an interesting point about the lack of public clamber for the extension of the franchise to 16-17 year olds. However, the cynic in me may question just how progressive this move may have been. While the MHK’s could acquire political kudos and claim a great progressive step forward in extending the vote, the political reality is that not many 16-17 year olds actually vote, and those who do, certainly do not have the numbers to change the political landscape. Having said this, it certainly was a progressive measure and potentially may have a greater impact in future years as trends come and go. However, one thing is certain, it will be almost impossible to remove the vote; after all, no politician would want to be seen removing votes from parts of the electorate.

As to whether the current system can ever bring about such changes in our lifetime; I suggest that it would take a majority vote in the House of Keys. I do not mean for this to appear as flippant as it sounds. I would only like to point out that many people will claim that this is not possible & that is not possible, but what is in the true interests of our island community must always be possible; the difficulty is in convincing a majority of our elected officials to believe that an elected Chief Minister, Legco & FOI is not just possible, but desirable.

There is also a need for the electorate to clamber for these changes, to actually call for their introduction when their candidates knock on their doors at the general election. However, while we may not like the representation that we acquire, and we may look on in dismay when the public do not clamber for these progressive measures, I would always defend it as the price we pay for an electorate that is free to choose their representatives based on any issues they consider important to them.

However, I do believe the trend is changing in our direction. While the age of austerity may mean that our aims are not currently high on the political agenda, I did take heart in the number of candidates who stood for election in 2011 who listed as one of their beliefs, the need for an elected first minister. The journey towards our goals may still be long, but we should not lose heart in that, we should take heart in the fact that the journey has already started. Indeed, the fact that PAG exists, with its Charter, and that we are debating these issues and calling for these great liberal goals on this forum, is playing its own role in bringing about the change that we wish to see. I cannot promise that we will live to see the greater representation we wish to see within our lifetime, but I know that we certainly stand a chance when people are willing to stand up and say, I believe in an elected First Minister; I believe that LegCo should be popularly elected; I believe that a more robust press may emerge from the introduction of FOI.

But we certainly do not need a written constitution to do it.
0 #7 RE: Time for a written Constitution?Tristram 2012-03-14 12:43
Yes, I watched the video and it was good to see people standing up for their freedom.

>> but the protestor knew his rights and was able to reject the demands of the official - all without expensive legal representation!

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