PeopleTalk is an initiative of the Jesuits in Ireland to rebuild trust in public life and Galway County Council has invited PeopleTalk to set up its first Citizen-Jury in the county. PeopleTalk’s first public meeting will be held at the Pillo Hotel in Galway city at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 18 June and residents of Galway County are invited to volunteer for jury service for a period of between one and two years, with a commitment of not more than half a day a month. This pilot project will then be rolled out around the country.
PeopleTalk ‘s Director, Edmond Grace SJ (pictured here), worked with community groups in inner city Dublin, campaigning with them to tackle the drug problems in their local areas. That experience convinced him of the need for involvement from the bottom up in reform of our public services. “I began to see we needed to rethink our democracy,” he says. “Government has become so complicated that it is out of the reach of ordinary people. This project is hoping to give an active voice in the reform of public services.”
From those who volunteer twelve will be selected by lottery – six male, six female. The Jury will hold public listening sessions throughout the county with a view to giving citizens on the ground a chance to talk about their experience of government.
In the light of what they have heard, jury members will map out what they see as the key issues to be tackled and will then discuss these issues with public service managers in the county. Finally, they will come up with proposals to be addressed to specific officials or agencies.
According to Edmond Grace, “It should be possible to implement some of these proposals locally as a follow-on to the conversations with local public service managers, but others will require national attention.”
With this in mind PeopleTalk has a National Panel in place made up of nominees of the four main party leaders in Dáil Éireann as well as a number of people with prominent public service background and prominent figures in the community and voluntary sector. The task of this National Panel will be to identify both institutions and individuals at national level to be approached with a view to ensuring that any finding of a PeopleTalk Jury is treated with all due public respect.
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