Congrats to Hildegarde Naughton on her appointment to the Seanad! The former Mayor of Galway City has the potential to be a reforming and progressive Senator.
There’s been a lot of discussion on abolishing the second house, but when you think that Dev (who reformed the original Seanad), Collins and Griffiths all favoured a second house to represent minorities and it has given a voice to the likes of Mary Robinson, Michael D.Higgins and Feargal Quinn as well as an opportunity to Eamon Coughlan, you have to wonder.
Mary O’Rourke, among others, drafted reform policies (nothing happened, surprise, surprise) but the Seanad cannot reform itself! It is the duty of the Dáil to reform Seanad Éireann.
I’m not convinced abolishing the Seanad is the way to go. How about actually setting about to reform it properly? Put reforms in place, have the Seanad oversee the update of Bunreacht na hEireann (which will have to be done anyway as it contains a multitude of references to the Seanad).
A couple of suggestions for reform: 1. Change the voting system. Extend the electorate to everybody in the country (nationals, non-nationals, Irish citizens worldwide). 2. Reduce salaries and enforce a strict vouched expenses system. 3. Reduce Taoiseach’s picks to five from 11 and widen panels of choice where each voter can choose one candidate in each category e.g. Education, Industry, Sport/Recreation.
As only one per cent of the population get to participate in the voting process, many feel disenfranchised and as such see the Seanad as a ‘talking shop’, serving no real purpose. There is a suggestion of saving €20 million per annum over the term of the Dáil by abolishing the second house but do we really need so many Junior Ministers and does the Seanad have a role in accountability of actions by The Dáil?
Before making a definitive decision, people should think about how the Seanad should be run and make a few more suggestions. A much wider debate is needed than a yes/no to abolish in a referendum with no choice of actual reform proposals. I, for one, would love to hear the opinion of our last three presidents on the suggestion of abolishing Seanad Éireann! Remember, if we abolish the Seanad we are giving more power to the Dáil and there is one less avenue open to hear other opinions!
24 Upper Newcastle,