Seanad Eireann’s pivotal role in Irish Water bill makes case for deeper reform…

So, useless elite and out of touch is it? By a series of happy (or unhappy) accidents the government now has no majority in the Irish upper house. And by a further happy (or unhappy) accident the Seanad finds itself in a position to exercise real and substantial power of some critical amendments in an upcoming money bill.

Gavan Reilly explains

…amendments are where things could get tricky. In the Dáil last week the government blocked amendments that many neutral observers would have seen as fairly harmless. Among them:

  • A clause which required the support of two-thirds of both the Dáil and Seanad, before a plebiscite could be held on the sale of Irish Water
  • A clause barring the government from spending public money to campaign for a Yes vote in any such plebiscite
  • A clause requiring the new ‘public water forum’ (intended as a vehicle for customers to air their concerns about Irish Water’s operations) to also include representatives from the trade unions of Irish Water workers

All three were opposed — and all three are among the possible amendments that could resurface when the Seanad gets as far as considering changes on Friday.

In a Dail Eireann packed with a massive government majority, the executive has been able to exercise almost absolute executive power. Even under the current flawed system the highly moderated representation in the upper house has what looks like an unique opportunity to put a meaningful mark on legislation.

The case for a proper reform of the Irish democratic system clicks up a further notch…