This document Consultation Principles & Guidance is to update and replace the 2005 document “Guidelines on Consultation for Public Sector Bodies – Reaching Out.”

The guidelines were developed under Ireland’s Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2014-2016 and follow a review of national and international consultation guidelines. In common with many other countries, they adopt a principles-based approach to public consultation. The aim is to improve transparency, responsiveness and accessibility of consultations.

It is part of broader efforts under the Open Government Partnership to improve engagement with the citizen.

The Guidance, which is not binding on Public Bodies, promotes three principles.  Consultations should:

  1. Be genuine and meaningful
  2. Be targeted at, and facilitate input from, all those with an interest
  3. Be considered at all stages in the policy process, including development, implementation and review

Further information:

  • The Open Government Partnership National Action Plan (2014-2016) was developed jointly with civil society and citizen interests and launched in July 2014.
  • The Civil Service Renewal Plan (2014) commits to strengthening policy-making skills and developing more open approaches to policymaking.
  • A review of national and international guidelines was carried out. This included an examination of the Codes of Practice/Guidance on Consultation, and Consultation Principles in place in the UK, Australia, and Canada as well as those produced by the Council of Europe, the OECD, and the European Commission. A principles based approach to public consultation is advocated by these administrations and institutions.
  • The guidelines themselves were the subject of a two-stage consultation process, before being approved by the Government. More than 50 supportive submissions from the public and Civil Society groups were made.

In summary, the key principles adopted in the guidelines are:

  • Consultation with citizens must be genuine, meaningful, timely, balanced and with the ultimate objective of leading to better outcomes and greater understanding by all involved of the benefits and consequences of proceeding with a particular policy or legislation proposals.
  • Consultation should be targeted at and easily accessible to those with a clear interest in the policy in question.
  • In the case of significant policy, services or legislative proposals, public bodies should make systematic efforts to ensure that interested and affected parties have the opportunity to take part in open consultations at all stages of the policy process: development, implementation, evaluation, and review.

The Consultation Principles and Guidance were themselves subject to a public consultation process. The Department’s response to the issues raised during that process is available to read here.