Deliberative Constitutionalism: Assessing the Representation Deficit

Deliberative mini-publics bring randomly selected citizens together to deliberate and make recommendations based on expert evidence.
This paper analyses the use of deliberative mini-publics in conjunction with referendums as a constitutional amendment method. It does so through the prism of the much-lauded Irish experience of deliberative constitutionalism in the context of amendments on same-sex marriage and abortion. The paper argues that the representativeness of deliberative mini-publics – both in demographic and attitudinal terms – is critical to the normative and sociological legitimacy of such bodies. If the addition of a deliberative element to a referendum process is to be a positive response to the well-documented weaknesses of referendums, greater focus needs to be placed on improving the representativeness of deliberative mini-publics and enhancing transparency in respect of deficits in representation.