“School’s out for Summer Schools”: The Week In Irish Politics

So that’s it. The political term over and done with. Politicians off on their holidays and the lights all off in Leinster House. They’re all in Marbella, Magaluf or Corfu. At least that’s the impression you get any time you read the papers upon the rising of the houses of the Oireachtas for any recess. In reality, the political world keeps turning and politicians are still at work, be it in the constituency, developing policy, meetings with various groups, or … Read more

Those radical Seanad reforms include enfranchising passport holders in Northern Ireland…

So, finally, the Seanad reforms are out [Report]. This, it seems, is serious business. Having been told by the Irish people they want to keep the upper chamber, these proposals are likely to re-emerge is as little as two weeks in the form of draft legislation. Broadly, they are these: Thirty-six of the 60 seats be directly elected from five vocational panels and from the university constituency Thirteen of the 60 seats be indirectly elected from an electoral college of … Read more

Surely the McNulty affair makes the case for serious Seanad reform unanswerable?

So, that wasn’t such a great idea after all. John McNulty has stepped down from the board of IMMA. And even if he does win the election the unfortunate Mr McNulty may have a legal case on his hands, after one of his rival candidates, Gerard Craughwell, for the vacant seat in the Seanad has said he’s now unqualified to stand for the Cultural and Education Panel. The irony is that a section of Senators don’t need to be qualified … Read more

Franchise bump for Seanad a step one reform? Or taping up the box on further reform?

Well, the government’s first response to defeat in the last referendum is to bring forward a broadening of the university franchise which gives the votes to all graduates of third level education in the Republic. So if you graduated at the Institute of Technology in Letterkenny, congratulations, you now have a vote. Erm, that is if the College still knows where you live. Minister for Agriculture has said this morning that ‘more fundamental reform’ is needed, and certainly given the damning … Read more

Seanad Eireann and an emerging consensus for functional reform?

So Seanad Reform? It hasn’t gone away you know!  Leaving aside the practical consideration of how progress is to be made in discussions of future reforms, on the table are five ‘live’ documents: Senator John Crowne’s Seanad Electoral Reform Bill 2013 (March 2013) Senators Zappone and Quinn’s Seanad Bill 2013 (published on behalf of Democracy Matters) Fianna Fáil’s A Seanad for the People (2013) The Green Party, Seanad Reform Policy (September 2013) Seanad Committee on Procedures and Privileges, Sub-committee on Seanad Reform … Read more

#SeanadRef: Unicameral reforms little more than a ‘fag packet visualisation’?

So, back to the real world, sortta. Yesterday the Government launched its package of reforms to try to make a future unicameral Dail fit for purpose: Extending Dáil sitting week and providing additional time for legislative debate The Dáil will start earlier each day meeting at 12.30pm on Tuesday and 9.30am on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday sittings will take place every second week and be extended to include a 2 hour debate on a Private Member’s Bill and a 2 … Read more

#SeanadRef: Will SF’s pro abolition campaign ‘yield the high ground of reform to Fianna Fail’?

So Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty led today’s launch of his party’s referendum campaign. His closing statement, has less to do with the ups and downs of whether or not to change the Constitution, keep or close the Irish upper house, than targeting old enemies: “Do you trust these parties? Over the last decades there has never been political reform of the Seanad. There’s nothing to convince me that any of these individuals are genuine and sincere about political reform in … Read more

#SeanadRef: No one is defending the present Seanad’s toothless old assenting insiderly grin…

So the Seanad Abolition debate got underway earlier in the week on RTE’s Drivetime programme with a lively if nervous and unfocused sort of debate. There are several things to say about the odd circumstances of this latest turn in the Republic’s seemingly unending cycle of referendums. One is that the Enda Kenny’s great idea came before he used his Taoiseach’s nominations to appoint some tough and independent minded Senators who have had the effect of boosting both the quality … Read more

Seanad Referendum: It’s about the economy, stupid!

Here Patricia MacBride responds to an emerging debate over the future of Seanad Eireann that was in full flow at the MacGill Summer School last night. Now that the Seanad Referendum Bill has been signed by the Minister, it’s all about balance in the debate from here on in, right? Well no – not really. The government parties are in favour of abolishing the Seanad and have recently been joined by Sinn Féin on the ‘Yes’ side, leaving Fianna Fáil … Read more

On political reform: “the present time of crisis is exactly the time to act”

A year ago James Downey wrote of the Taoiseach’s long standing committment to abolish Eamonn De Valera’s Seanad Eirean thus: Seanad Eireann (did he invent the name too?) made a gesture towards “vocationalism”, a daft idea popular in some right-wing circles in the 1930s, and another gesture towards elitism, with six seats reserved for graduates of the National University and Trinity College. The whole thing was wildly undemocratic. And it didn’t work. It couldn’t work. He never intended it to … Read more

Abolition of the Seanad ignores Ireland’s need for democratic renewal…

Vincent Browne gets all academic today on the subject of the poor state of Irish democracy: We now have a form of representative democracy whereby almost the sole independent function of our elected representatives is to choose a Taoiseach, after which the government formed by the Taoiseach is effectively immune from accountability during its period in office. A government that regards election promises as disposable at will. Is it tolerable that the people are denied, effectively, any means of changing … Read more

Referendum proposing the abolition of the Seanad just weeks away…

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 … Read more

Baby, bath water and the planned abolition of Seanad Eireann

If I have misgivings about the abolition of the Seanad, some of them are reflected in these comments from Michael Burrows the Anglican Bishop of Cashel and Ossory, who argues that “it is just not good enough to offer the people a Hobson’s choice between the present Seanad or no Seanad at all.”: The Senate does need reform and one improvement would be to hold elections to it, in whatever manner is used, simultaneously with Dáil elections so that service in the … Read more