Citizens Must Continue Questioning of Irish Society and State even in Better Economic Times says European Ombudsman

European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has warned that economic recovery should not divert us from the necessary questioning of Irish society and the roles of citizens and state begun after the fall of the Celtic Tiger.

Ms O'Reilly was speaking to a packed Oak Room in the Mansion House in Dublin at the launch of The People's Conversation - Rethinking Citizenship for 2016. The conversation is an initiative of The Wheel, a network of 1,000 Irish non-profit organisations, in partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust.

Referring to the possible re-emergence of a form of Celtic Tiger, Ms O'Reilly said, "put crudely, in the event that we are allowed again to splash the cash and engage in get rich quick schemes 2014 style, will the national conversations about citizenship and related matters come to a grinding halt, or will they continue, with meaning, and focus and will they actually drive real change?  Put even cruder still, when we couldn't afford to do anything else but talk, then talk we did through the initiatives I mentioned earlier, but if we are now about to be distracted by the reappearance of our old feline friend, will we jettison what has so promisingly begun?"

"We failed to fix many things even when the country was awash with money. Our health system continues to be problematic, the marginalised never stopped being marginal and the recession pushed them even further away.  The recession did afford us an opportunity to reflect on how we might re imagine the way we have always done things but that journey has barely begun."

"Ms O'Reilly welcomed the initiative being taken by The Wheel in partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust: "You have a chance through the People’s Conversation to define a vision that gives a practical and sustainable expression to the finer parts of our Irishness, the parts that have proved immutable despite everything, our energy, our creativity,  our openness, our humour, our capacity for friendship and for the giving of a helping hand to friends and to strangers alike."

Ms O'Reilly welcomed the initiative being taken by The Wheel in partnership with the Carnegie UK Trust: "You have a chance through the People’s Conversation to define a vision that gives a practical and sustainable expression to the finer parts of our Irishness, the parts that have proved immutable despite everything, our energy, our creativity,  our openness, our humour, our capacity for friendship and for the giving of a helping hand to friends and to strangers alike. I would encourage you also to be creative both in the creation of such a vision, and in its subsequent implementation."

Ms O'Reilly's address was followed by a public conversation featuring contributions from comedian Eleanor Tiernan, writer Tom Clonan, Amnesty International Director Colm O’Gorman and Senator Jillian van Turnhout, and a wide range of voices from the floor.

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.

Key note address from Emily O'Reilly

Click here for photos from the launch.

For more information see: www.peoplesconversation.ie.