The Senate, the Seanad and the Dáil
Deaglán de Bréadún
Sometimes things happen in politics that are almost inexplicable. For example, how could it happen that a US Senate seat which was held for so long by Edward Kennedy and, before that, his brother John, fall into the hands of the Republicans?
Did President Obama take his eye off the ball? Surely he should have been practically living in Massachusetts for the duration of the campaign? The Democrats now lose their precious 60-40 majority in the Senate and the healthcare reform package is in serious jeopardy. Clearly the candidate the Democrats put forward was not the best – although maybe she was the best available, can that be true?
We have a more modest by-election coming up here sometime, in Donegal South-West. This vacancy was created by Pat the Cope Gallagher’s election to the European Parliament. No date has been set and, for understandable reasons, the Government is in no obvious hurry. The conventional thinking has been that Sinn Féin’s Senator Pearse Doherty should win the seat, but that can’t be taken for granted, with SF going through a fairly rocky patch at the moment. The result won’t have a hugely-significant effect on the balance of forces in the Dáil but will be a significant straw in the wind nevertheless.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael are ploughing ahead with their plans to abolish the Seanad. There is so much talk about it that I am almost beginning to believe it is a serious proposal rather than a top-of-the-head idea. I can’t convince myself it will ever happen – the Seanad has been such a cosy little resting-place for failed or aspiring (or both) Dáil candidates for such a long time. I observed to a sitting FG Senator that, “Enda is going to abolish you.” The immediate off-the-record reply was: “Just let him try!”