Nature Can Have the Same Rights as People in Ireland with Citizens’ Assembly

Nature Can Have the Same Rights as People in Ireland with Citizens’ Assembly

People in Ireland brought their attention to the nature into the next level. More than just campaigning or going to the street, they took it more elegantly by holding citizens’ assembly. They demanded for protection to the biodiversity.

This is the first citizens’ assembly that talks about the environment for Ireland, and apparently in the whole world too. This might set a trend to other nations’ citizens on how to make their voice be heard and get some support for their missions.

This citizens’ assembly also show how caring the citizens of Ireland to their environment. That’s a spirit that every citizen of every country in the whole world should have and nurture. So, what’s actually the citizens assembly talking about in general? Why we need to take this as an example for everyone?

Here, in this article, we are going to talk about it.

The Citizens’ Assembly

crowd in ireland

Vox populi vox dei. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Based on that old Latin saying, citizen of Ireland decided to make their voice heard by lawmakers. The way they sound their voices is pretty elegant, in this case, which is by using citizens’ assembly.

Also understood as people’s initiative jury, it is a mechanism where citizens are randomly selected to make a group of people carrying a mission to address important matters. However, in the case of Ireland’s most recent citizens’ assembly, the choice of people is not really random.

Each of them is chosen based on their differences to make sure that they can accommodate the voice of broader population. Therefore, the citizens are a mix of different age, race, occupation, gender, disability, and living area.

Here in the assembly, the people were given information about current condition of the environment and evidences from experts. Afterward, they were welcome to assume and share ideas about how to fix the issue.

Not only that, they also then welcome to vote for recommendations to give to the lawmakers so that their voice can be heard. Back in 2017, similar process played important role in determining the country’s politics. The people recommended the government to remove constitutional ban on abortion and paved the way for 2018 referendum.

What the Citizens’ Assembly Talking About


There are a lot of things being talked in the citizens’ assembly in Ireland recently. But there is one particular mission that the people brought in common, which is to save the country’s biodiversity from biodiversity loss.

One of the things being talked was threats that biodiversity loss can bring to the country. Not only that, they also talked about the main drivers for the loss and the perspective from each representative group, advocacy group, expert, policy maker, and general public about the topic.

Ways to reverse the loss and some opportunities to express their concerns to the lawmakers were also among the things they discussed. Overall, it covered the whole problems and solutions about Ireland’s diversity loss.

For your information, it was not a one moment assembly because in total there were ten sessions and one field trip took place last year. And from all those meetings, they have heard from 80 legal experts, scientists, farmers and NGOs in addition to over 650 submissions which among them was from indigenous communities in South America.

“The atmosphere is often lively, busy and engaged. The magic happens when members have heard experts’ presentations and then discuss what they have heard in tables and come back with questions,” said Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin who was a chairperson of the assembly.

Biodiversity in Ireland

ireland sheep

So, how severe is actually the biodiversity loss in Ireland that those people chose to hold citizens’ assembly to tackle the loss? A data found some surprising facts such as how 54 species of birds have become endangered in the past 50 years.

What’s even scarier is around 81% of the country’s wetland species have disappeared during that time span. Even bigger percentage of bee species, around 98% of them, have also disappeared during the time span.

Knowing about that fact, the members of the assembly voted to hold a referendum for biodiversity protection on November 27 2022. The referendum focused on giving the nature comparable legal rights as human.

In this case, in case something bad happen to the nature, it is legal to demand for consequences to the ones who cause it. Similar demand has been made in New Zealand 5 years earlier, granting the country’s Mount Taranaki and the Whanganui River comparable rights as humans.

The referendum is just one of 60 recommendations voted in the assembly. “Many of those will quicken the enforcement and implementation of laws and policies, or strengthen state agencies and community groups conserving biodiversity,” as Ní Shúilleabháin stated.

Everyone Protecting The Earth


Professor of politics at the University of Westminster, Graham Smith, told Euronews Green that it is a vital action. He said, “It is the first time that a constitutional protection of nature will have happened through the use of a citizens’ assembly, assuming it goes through.”

The reason is because once the law is passed then activists may take polluters and nature destroyers to the courts to demand for their responsibilities. In addition to that, according to Jez Hall, a director at citizens’ assembly specialists Shared Future, “It might also make it easier to impose taxes on oil and gas companies.”

Companies would be more careful to not destroy the environment and make sure their activities would be more eco-friendly in the future too. Sure, they would not want to be dragged to courts for contributing to the destruction of Irish nature.

Individuals should also be more careful with their actions in the future so that they don’t have to destroy the nature either by accident or intentionally. In the bigger picture, it would impose the growth of responsibility to protect the nature to the people.

This is an important step to be followed by citizens in other countries. Not only it help their voices to be heard, but it can also help them sound their worries whether it is related to the nature or any social condition.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.