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Participatory Democracy Coming to Fingal

Roslyn Fuller, who ran as an Independent in the last general election, will be running an innovative trial of online decision-making in Fingal this year.

The website will allow Fingal residents to indicate their preferences on a variety of local and national issues. The initiative promises not to shy away from controversy, and while it includes sections on stand-bys like taxation and health, it will also venture into less well-trodden territory with questions on basic income, drug legalization, TTIP, and repealing the 8th amendment.

“I think it is important to give people the chance to exchange views on issues that don’t normally get much of an airing,” Fuller said, “I’m really curious to see what the people of Fingal have to say on these points.”

The project will also feature Fingal-specific topics, such as the issue of public transportation for the constituency.

Fuller stresses that the software to be used – Ethelo Decisions – is not a survey tool, but rather an interactive portal. Participants will be able to view statements on each issue, as well as links to arguments for and against, and they will be able to choose from a 9-point scale reflecting how strongly they agree or disagree with each statement.

Anyone taking part can also leave comments explaining their position, make suggestions for alternative choices if they don’t like what is on offer, and post links to outside material that others may find useful. Although users will not be able to see how any other particular person has voted, they will be able to see how the community in general is voting, and also to tot up the total costs of their decisions.

“The process isn’t just about creating a quick wish list, but about thinking about the consequences of each decision. It’s almost like a game, with the goal being to come up with the best, most cost-effective platform for yourself.”

While Fuller garnered 772 first preferences in February, she didn’t win a seat, so the project is non-binding – for now.

“If we get enough participants to be statistically representative, the results will certainly inform my own policy going forward,” Fuller says, “and, as it is a completely transparent process, you can bet that many other politicians will be looking at them, too. More than that, however, it is an initial proof-of-concept for participatory democracy, and an important first step in moving this forward. It’s like a little piece of the future.”

The project is timed to end shortly before the budget is announced in the fall, and the 36-year-old intends to spend the summer making sure that everyone is informed and ready to go when the portal opens up in September. Those wishing to participate should sign up at to receive an invitation.

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