European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly Speaks at Launch of National Initiative to Rethink Citizenship for Today’s Ireland

October 10, 2014

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Carnegie UK Trust and civil society organisations team up to get people talking about the
roles, rights and responsibilities of citizens and State

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly will speak at a “public conversation” on citizenship in the Mansion House in Dublin on Saturday 11th October. Ms O’Reilly will deliver a keynote address on the topic “Citizenship or Self-Interest?” followed by a public conversation featuring comedian Eleanor Tiernan, writer Tom Clonan, Amnesty Director Colm O’Gorman and Senator Jillian van Turnhout.

The event is the launch of The People’s Conversation – Rethinking Citizenship for 2016, a national initiative to get people talking about the roles, rights and responsibilities of citizens and State in Ireland. The conversation is being led by The Wheel, a network of 1,000 Irish non-profit organisations, in partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust. The conversation will engage people from all walks of life in creative dialogue on the respective roles, rights and responsibilities of citizens, State and communities.

Speaking in advance of the event, Emily O’Reilly said, “Citizenship – and when I use that term, I mean everyone who lives in this country and not just legal citizens- is often narrowly understood. The citizen is not necessarily a virtuous being who fully accepts the trade that is implied by citizenship as between rights and responsibilities. When we think about real citizenship we talk about someone who lives by a guiding ethic in relation to the responsibility they have vis-a-vis their fellow citizens and the consequent need to subsume some self interest in pursuit of that common good.”

Ivan Cooper, Director of Advocacy with The Wheel said, “Citizenship is not just about a passport or voting. It’s about our rights and our responsibilities to each other, about what we expect and what is expected of us. It’s the basis for a shared understanding of what a fair and just society means.”

Carnegie UK Trust CEO Martyn Evans said, “The Carnegie UK Trust is delighted to be supporting this critical debate. In the 21st century citizens expect government to be more responsive and engaged. In turn governments are realising that to improve wellbeing, citizens and communities must be given greater control. We have seen the green shoots of a new and more balanced relationship between citizens and the state in Ireland, the UK and beyond. This evolving landscape raises important questions about what it means to be a citizen in 21st Century Ireland.”

In addition to public conversations such as Saturday’s event, the project will see diverse groups of people meeting for discussion on values and citizens’ expectations of themselves and of each other. Over the next year the common themes and new ideas emerging from the conversations will be shaped into a new vision for active citizenship and empowered communities.

The Wheel is partnering with a wide range of civil society organisations to host conversation groups that will feed in to the creation of a new vision for citizenship for 21st century Ireland, with the guidance of a Reference Board drawn from senior figures in civil society, business, media and elsewhere. This vision will contain practical recommendations for change and will be published in advance of the 1916 centenary and expected general election in 2016.

The Trust are pleased to support the People’s Conversation as part of the Trust’s Enabling State project led by Carnegie Fellow Sir John Elvidge. The People’s Conversation builds on a roundtable held in Dublin in early 2013 at which the evolving relationship between the state and citizens and communities was discussed. Sir John’s final, accessible report A Routemap to an Enabling State and the background research can be found here.

For more information contact Ryan Meade on Tel: +353 86 817 6657 or email [email protected].
About The Wheel:

The Wheel is a national organisation that represents and supports community, voluntary and charitable organisations in Ireland. Founded in 1999, we currently have almost 1,000 members across Ireland, re?ecting the enormous scope and scale of this vibrant and diverse sector. The Wheel exists to help change people’s lives for the better. We do this by helping non-profit organisations get things done, more efficiently and more effectively. The Wheel is registered charity (no. 13288) and a company limited by guarantee. See