The Irish Citizens' Assembly



Type of experience

diagonisis space/workshop... hearigns, forums and assemblies citizen assemblies/juries


governance and transparency environment and climate action


SDG 13 SDG 16

The Assembly is a body comprising the Chairperson and 99 citizens, randomly selected to be broadly representative of the Irish electorate, established to consider some of the most important issues facing Ireland's future.


The Citizen's Assembly is an exercise in deliberative democracy. Currently considering 'How the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling Climate Change'



About the Citizens' Assembly

The Assembly is a body comprising the Chairperson and 99 citizens, randomly selected to be broadly representative of the Irish electorate, established to consider some of the most important issues facing Ireland's future.

The Assembly members will deliberate the topics as outlined in the Resolution approving its establishment, and any other matters that may be referred to it. Their conclusions on each topic will form the basis of individual reports and recommendations that will be submitted to the Houses of the Oireachtas for further debate by our elected representatives.

From October 2016, the Assembly will meet on a regular basis under the chairmanship of Ms Justice Mary Laffoy. The Assembly will complete its work within a year from the date of its first meeting.

Who are the Members

Citizen Members

There are 99 citizen members of the Assembly, in addition to the Chairperson. Members were chosen at random to represent the views of the people of Ireland, and will be broadly representative of society as reflected in the Census, including age, gender, social class, regional spread etc. They must also be on the electoral register to vote in a referendum.

Since the inaugural meeting on 15 October 2016, 38 members have been replaced.

  • 11 new members were recruited between the October Inaugural meeting and the November meeting of the Assembly.
  • A further 4 members were recruited following the November meeting and before the January meeting.
  • 9 new members were recruited between the January and February meetings.
  • 7 new members were recruited after the April meeting. 
  • 6 new members were recruited after the June meeting.
  • 1 new member was recruited after the July meeting. 

Of these 38 who have been replaced, 17 were initially recruited and indicated a willingness to participate in the Assembly but never attended any meeting and were therefore replaced.

Following the February meeting, a further 4 members did withdraw from the process and were not replaced. A decision was taken by the Chair not to replace any members who withdrew from the process following the February meeting. It was agreed that this was the most appropriate course of action given the amount and complexity of material already circulated and considered in detail on the issue of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution during the previous Assembly weekend meetings. It also took account of the fact that there were only two weekends left to consider and make recommendations on this topic.

For this reason, 95 members were actually due to attend the April meeting of the Assembly. Since the April meeting, a further 10 members in total have withdrawn from the process.  

Most of those who have withdrawn have done so for personal reasons including illness, illness of a family member, change in employment or circumstances.

All members substituted on to the Assembly have been recruited by REDC in accordance with the demographic quotas in the Census.

Click here for a list of members of the Assembly. 




The Hon. Ms. Justice Mary Laffoy

Ms. Justice Laffoy graduated from University College Dublin with a B.A. degree in 1968.  Subsequently, between 1968 and 1971 she studied law at University College Dublin and at the Honorable Society of King's Inns in Dublin.  She was called to the Bar in July 1971.

Ms. Justice Laffoy practised as a barrister from the Michaelmas term in 1971 until her appointment to the High Court.  She was admitted to the Inner Bar in the Michaelmas term of 1987.

Ms. Justice Laffoy was appointed a Judge of the High Court in April 1995.  While on the High Court Bench, she was primarily involved in civil litigation, principally in the area of chancery law.

Ms. Justice Laffoy was appointed to the Supreme Court in October 2013 and retired in June 2017.

How were the citizen members selected?
Following a public tendering process, Red C Research and Marketing Ltd were engaged to select the 99 citizen members, and 99 substitutes, of the Assembly.

The members were recruited in September and October 2016. The members were chosen at random and are broadly representative of demographic variables as reflected in the Census. The quotas each interviewer had to reach in the district electoral division (DED) they were allocated to were based on the following demographic variables: gender, age and social class.

Interviewers recruited participants by cold calling door-to-door to households. Interviewers selected a start address at random within the area allocated to them. They then tried to complete interviews at every nth house within that specific location. Within each household a random selection process was used to identify the person to try and recruit if more than one person was available.

Direct applications from members of the public to take part in the Assembly were not accepted. Similarly, interviewers were not allowed to recruit friends or family together.

Prior to the commencement of the recruitment process for members of the Citizens' Assembly, it was decided that members of advocacy groups on the topics to be considered would be excluded from membership of the Assembly. The rationale for this decision is based on the fact that interest groups are invited to make submissions on the matters concerning them.

In order to establish this information, during the recruitment process all potential members were asked if they currently were, had been or intend to act in an advocacy role for any interest or lobby group campaigning on any of the issues to be considered by the Assembly. This was asked of potential members again during the validation phone call with Red C who carried out recruitment on behalf of the Assembly. Any potential members who answered yes to these questions were excluded from the process.

Citizen members who have previously expressed views on any of the issues before the Assembly will not be excluded from the Assembly which by the random nature of its make up may include Members who have views on either side of a debate. These variations in opinion are to be expected and are part of the value of the Assembly. However the Chair of the Assembly has asked that members refrain from publicly commenting on the issues while the discussion is ongoing as a mark of respect to their fellow citizen members and to protect the integrity of the Assembly process.

Further details on the methodology used to identify the members is available here.

A copy of the recruitment questionnaire used by Red C interviewers is available to view here. A copy of the follow-up validation questionnaire can be viewed here

A booklet was prepared for potential members to provide further advice on what is involved in being a Member, which is available to view here.

How was the Chairperson selected?

Ms. Justice Laffoy was appointed Chairperson of the Assembly by the Government on 27 July 2016.


The inaugural meeting of the Citizens' Assembly was on the 15 October 2016.

The Assembly was initially due to conclude its meetings in July 2017. However, the Chair made the decision in March that the May meeting should be cancelled and replaced with a meeting at the end of September. As the original schedule had only a four week break from the end of the Eighth Amendment to the weekend on older people and then only 3 weeks between that and the weekend on climate change, the Chair felt that such a relentless pace would be unfair on the members, unmanageable for the Secretariat and most importantly would not allow sufficient time to prepare for the other topics.

The Chair later decided that the second topic - how we best respond to the challenges and opportunities of an ageing population - would require two weekend's deliberations to adequately cover it. As such, the Assembly considered this particular topic on 10-11 June and 8-9 July.

It was decided that a second weekend would also be required for the Assembly's third topic - how the State can make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. The Assembly will consider this topic on the 30 September -1 October and 4-5 November.

The Assembly received an extension from the Houses of the Oireachtas in order to complete its consideration of the remaining two topics in early 2018.

A revised full calendar of meetings is available here.

The meetings of the Citizens' Assembly will be live streamed here.

Generally speaking the format for the meetings will be as follows:

  • Introductory remarks by the Chairperson 
  • Expert presentations 
  • Presentations from civil society and advocacy groups
  • Consideration of submissions by Members of the public 
  • Question and Answer Sessions and Debates 
  • Roundtable discussions

Deliberation and Facilitation of Discussions

Deliberation by members is a cornerstone of the Assembly exercise. Roundtable discussions are built into the timetable for each Assembly meeting to allow the members the opportunity to further examine, discuss, debate and enhance their understanding of the material they are considering.

To assist with this discussion, facilitators and note-takers are present at each table. Roomaxx Ltd were selected to provide this service following a competitive tendering process.

At the Citizens' Assembly, roundtable discussions typically take place in two distinct formats. The role of the facilitator/ notetaker is slightly different in each case.

These differences and the roles of the facilitator/ notetaker in each case are explained below.

Roundtable discussions following a presentation

Following a presentation from an expert or invited speaker, the Assembly typically breaks off into private session roundtable discussions to allow the members to discuss what they have heard and to hear each other's views. The role of the facilitator in those cases is to:

  • Facilitate a discussion in keeping with the Ground Rules and to focus on the conversation starters provided by the secretariat. 
  • Note any questions from the table which the members would like them to ask on their behalf in the public Q&A session. This must be agreed with all members and should also include agreement on priority questions with their table in case there isn't time for every question. This is not obligatory as members are free to ask questions directly of the panelist.
  • Record a short summary of the discussion for record keeping purposes. Again this must be agreed with all members.

Roundtable discussions

From time to time at the Assembly roundtable discussions are scheduled to allow members to consider matters in more detail; for example to begin thinking about how recommendations might be formed.

The role of the facilitator in those cases is to:

  • Facilitate a discussion in keeping with the Ground Rules and to focus on the conversation starters provided by the secretariat. 
  • Record a summary of the discussion and feed this back to the Chair of the Assembly in the public session. This must be agreed with all members. In undertaking this task, the facilitators and members should be aware of the following:
    • The facilitator is speaking on behalf of the members at the table. As such, in describing the discussion the facilitator should avoid language like 'it is our view/ we believe'. As the facilitator is not part of the discussion, phrases like, 'it is the view of this table' 'some at this table expressed the view' etc should be used. 
    • Where possible the facilitator should provide feedback on the full range of views expressed at each table. The role of the facilitator in these sessions is not to present an agreed conclusion to a discussion, but rather to summarise the discussion that has taken place. In the spirit of equality of voice, one of the key principles of the Assembly, it is important that the full range of views is aired and reported to the Chair.

Guidelines provided to facilitators and note-takers to help them carry out their role are available to view here


Following these discussions, all matters before the Assembly will be voted upon and recommendations based on the majority view of the Members will be made to the Houses of the Oireachtas. 

The Government will then provide a response to each recommendation of the Assembly and, if accepting the recommendation, will indicate the timeframe it envisages for the holding of any related referendum.