5.1 General context
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The National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making defines participation as:
‘the process by which children and young people have active involvement and real influence in decision-making on matters affecting their lives, both directly and indirectly.’
The National Framework for Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-Making was recently published in 2021 and defines participation as
‘participation with purpose means that when children and young people are involved in decision-making, their views are listened to, taken seriously and given due weight with the intention of leading to an outcome or change.’
Both definitions are consistent with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that underlies these Strategies and Article 24 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Child and Youth Participation Strategy (2019-2023) defines participation as:
‘the involvement of children and young people in decision-making on issues that affect their lives, as part of a process of enacting their rights as citizens, at both the individual and collective levels.’
Institutions of representative democracy
The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary representative democracy. Legislative power is vested in the Oireachtas, which consists of the President of Ireland and two Houses of the Oireachtas: Dail Éireann and Seanad Éireann,
Executive power is exercised by the Government, that is led by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), whose deputy is the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister).
The Cabinet is nominated by the Taoiseach and approved by the Dáil, then appointed by the President.
Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann
Dáil Éireann is the principal Chamber of the Oireachtas and has 158 Members. A Member’s official Irish title is ‘Teachta Dála’ (commonly known as TD) which in English means ‘Deputy to the Dáil.’
By law, a General Election to Dáil Éireann must be held at least once every five years.
The Chair of the Dáil is called the Ceann Comhairle. His/her deputy is the Leas-Cheann Comhairle. The Seanad is the Upper House of the Oireachtas and has 60 Senators. The Chair of the Seanad is called the Cathaoirleach with their deputy being the Leas-Chathaoirleach.
The President of Ireland is elected to a seven-year term of office and no person may serve more than two terms. The current President is Michael D. Higgins.
The President, who does not have an executive or policy role, exercises his/her formal powers and functions on the advice of the Government.
The President has the power to refer a bill to the Supreme Court for a judgment on its constitutionality. He/she may seek advice from the Council of State and refer the Bill to the Irihs Supreme Court for a ruling on whether it complies with the Constitution.
Parliamentary committees play an important role in the business of the Oireachtas. They can receive submissions and hear evidence from interested parties or groups; discuss and draft proposals for legislative change; print and publish minutes of evidence and related documents; and require attendance of Ministers to discuss current policies and proposals for legislation.
There are four types of committees
- Standing committee
- Joint committee
- Select committee
- Special committee (rare occurrence).
Voting is not compulsory in Ireland. Voting is cast by ballot box or by post in certain cases.