Parliament and public consultation

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Colette commissioned the Oireachtas Library & Research Service to write the paper Parliament and public consultation.

This paper outlines some of the approaches to public consultation found in other parliaments. It also considers some of the issues and challenges around public consultation. Specifically, as requested, the paper addresses the work of Jim McNamara on the ‘listening architecture’. There is little research on either the listening organisation (McNamara 2015) or the impact of parliamentary public engagement.[1]  Research to date focuses on how organisations, including parliaments, develop methods broadcasting and the transmission of information, i.e. speaking rather than listening.

In recent years, the idea of the ‘mediator parliament’ has developed where the traditional forms of representative democracy are expanding to more participatory types of democracy. In participatory democracy there is interaction between legislature/legislators and an informed and critical citizenry, and this occurs every day and not just at elections.[2]

In a 2012 report, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)[3] describes the challenges parliaments face in identifying what successful public engagement looks like beyond counting the number of interactions and more importantly the need to manage the tension between the institutional promise of greater influence offered by more consultation and the actual implications of giving citizens more control. The promise of influence heightens expectations and where these are not met may leave citizens disillusioned and unlikely to engage again.

The parliamentary administrations develop the mechanisms for greater public consultation but the impact of that consultation and the extent of its influence remains a political decision….

Read the full paper here.