In his op ed in the Irish Times recently, Conor Brady noted:
It is limiting and dangerous to have a single, received orthodoxy when there is fear and suffering all about. Yet ironically, as one part of the Oireachtas (the presidency) finds its voice, another (the Seanad) may be about to be silenced permanently.
It’s a theme I’ve tried to amplify in an audioboo I recorded last night, not least regarding the abiding lack of plurality in the Irish governmental system:
As luck would have it, I was at the BIPA in Swansea the day after Enda Kenny announced abolition as party policy. I spoke first to Senator Terry Leyden of Fianna Fail who spoke in favour of retaining it:
And then to Brian Hayes who had co-chaired the last report proposing reform of the Irish Upper House:
Hayes notes that there have been something like 16 or 17 separate reports on reform of the Seanad and that NONE of them have been acted upon. Some changes (like the extension of the university graduate franchise in 1979) have had approval by referendum and still have not made it into law.
Brady’s arguments are on one level unanswerable. But on another, so is Hayes’ that over the longer term, the Irish executive has tended to ignore recommendations for parliamentary reform, often on the pretext that it is pre-occupied with more pressing affairs.
Favouring the urgent over the important is a universal human failing. So too is the fear that in bolstering parliament you also hamper the executive’s freedom to act.
And, as I point out in the boo, the ordering of abolition of the Seanad before its reform means that were it retained, the precise questions of its reform will lie outside the remit of the constitutional convention.
Interesting times ahead… For more, follow @SeanadReform on Twitter…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty