I attended the inaugural meeting of The Constitution Project last night, a new academic research unit at UCC, whose meetings are open to the public. Groups and projects on The Irish Constitution and Irish Constitutional Law seem to be springing up in many places, some by the lunatic fringe, some deep in sheltered academia, and others – like this, it seems – trying to find a balance between the two. It was a well organised, well chaired event, with a good range of subjects within a reasonably tight framework. Kicking things off was the subject of the Referendum Process, with Mr Justice Gerard Hogan speaking on the history of referendums, or more accurately the amendment structure under the 1922 constitution and why it was bad. He was followed by Mr Justice Bryan McMahon (who taught me Tort in Galway 22 years ago) who had been chairman of the Referendum Commission in the two most recent referendums, speaking of how the commission works – a rare and insightful discussion. Dr Theresa Reidy then outlined some opinion poll based research into why people voted as they did in the Oireachtas Inquiries referendum, which was very interesting, particularly in the context of Mr Justice McMahon’s comments. And finally Dr Maria Cahill revisited the Crotty decision, one that began to get at why we have so many referendums (not just in EU cases).
I’ve not read much of Popper, a failing I’m looking to rectify soon. However, one snippit has intrigued me – his assertion that if we can predict a solar eclipse, then we should be able to predict revolutions. Saying that, I’m not entirely sure if it was an assertion (“…we should be…”) or a question (“…should we be…”). Nevertheless, our excess of instrumentation today through the integrated digital tooling of everything means that we can measure more than ever before. With social media, an appropriate big data infrastructure with cutting edge sentiment analytics should be able to measure the pulse of a people. That’s an experiment I’d like to set up some day, and hopefully I’ll get the time to do it.