Why should we talk about citizenship? What does the term even mean to Irish people today?
At the most basic level “citizenship” simply means membership of a society or adherence to a state. However the concept of citizenship also includes the complex of relationships, roles, rights and responsibilities between individual citizens, the State, communities and families. In Ireland the extent and nature of these rights and responsibilities can be poorly understood and indeed contested. There are questions over our shared understanding of the common good – do we treat the public realm as something to be exploited or do we truly feel ownership of it? Do we have an adequate vision of what kind of society we want to live in?
In our democracy is it enough to cast a vote every so often or do we have the right and duty to participate directly on an ongoing basis in the decisions which affect us? While we have high levels of participation in community and voluntary activity, many people are of the view that engagement in the democratic process is low. Despite welcome initiatives such as the recent Constitutional Convention, do we need to do more to effectively support citizens to participate in decision-making?