The recent European elections show that many countries in Europe are struggling to contain the rise of far-right populist parties antagonistic towards democracy. In Ireland, however, democracy has a spring in its step. In recent years, Ireland has been experimenting with new forms of participative democracy in the form of Citizen Assemblies and a Convention on the Constitution. These inclusive forums have contributed to profound social change on controversial issues – including same sex marriage, abortion and divorce – without the rancour and divisiveness these issues would have stoked in the past. So, what lessons might this small, open island with its own troubled history teach us about democracy?