An online public consultation portal will soon make it easier for citizens to have their say on both local and national initiatives, a Fine Gael TD has said.
Offaly Deputy Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy said a centralised portal will soon be available, delivering a more targeted approach for engaging with all stakeholders. Currently, public consultations are carried out through myriads of departmental and local government websites.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy said: “Public consultation is one of the most important activities of Government – both national and local – and State agencies, can undertake.
“During the last Dáil term I proposed to then Minister Howlin that an online centralised public consultations process be set up to provide an easily accessible and direct platform for people to give feedback on important issues at all levels.
“My Fine Gael colleague, Minister Patrick O’Donovan, has today informed me that a public consultations portal is being developed by the open government unit in conjunction with the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, and it is hoped that it will be up and running soon.
“By consulting effectively with the citizen and stakeholders we improve on the making of policy and its implementation. It is essential that public consultation is done in a very accurate way as it is so important that we get it right.”
Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy continued: “The consultation process increases transparency and improves engagement with the people. The information gleaned from public consultations means that policy is more informed and accurate and if changes are to be made that citizens are more aware of them.
“My proposal is that in order for the citizen to understand and access public consultation we should have a single access portal on the Internet. Each county could have a separate access point showing both local and national consultations.
“For example, in my area if I click on County Offaly I could see what consultations are being carried out by the local authority but I could also see what the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Arts Council or Fáilte Ireland are doing at a national level. Therefore, I could make a submission on a particular issue if I so wished.
“Until now, I believe reaching the citizen has been very piecemeal. Given how technology is moving it must be possible for us to have a single online portal for public consultation that would allow people to go in and look at their local area, region or nationally, and see what is relevant to them.
“My colleague Minister Donovan is currently further developing a platform that will allow people receive email notifications and share consultations on social media.
“It is important of course not to forget those people who may not have access to ICT equipment, so traditional avenues will continue to be used.
Deputy Corcoran Kennedy concluded: “This will be a very significant development for the citizens who will be able to have their say, be heard and, importantly, be aware when a public consultation is taking place and when we want to hear what they have to say.
“I sincerely believe this is a marvellous move for democracy.”