UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Over the past decade, deliberative democracy has increased citizen participation in Ireland’s government and reduced polarization around controversial topics like abortion and marriage equality.
Penn State's McCourtney Institute for Democracy will host David Farrell and Jane Suiter, two leaders of Ireland’s “We the Citizens” initiative, to discuss their success and how the model they created for citizen participation in government can be applied to other parts of the world.
Farrell and Suiter, winners of the 2019 Brown Democracy Medal, will present a lecture titled “Reimagining Democracy: Lessons in Deliberative Democracy from the Irish Front Line” at 4 p.m. Sept. 12 in the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Penn State's University Park campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.
Participants in Ireland's citizens assemblies showed a greater interest in politics, expressed more willingness to discuss issues, and felt more positive about the ability of ordinary people to influence politics.
Farrell is head of politics and international relations at University College Dublin, and Suiter is an associate professor at Dublin City University and director of the Institute for Future Media and Journalism.
The McCourtney Institute for Democracy awards the Brown Democracy Medal annually to honor the best work being done to advance democracy in the United States and internationally.
John Gastil, professor of communication arts and sciences and political science at Penn State and a senior scholar in the McCourtney Institute, nominated Farrell and Suiter for the Brown Democracy Medal and said their work exemplifies the innovation the medal aims to recognize.
“The success of the Irish model has drawn notice from around the world,” Gastil said. “Considering the recent history of political conflict in Ireland, if this kind of deliberation worked there, it could work anywhere.”