Saving the Seanad
Sir, – When I was approached (as a former Independent University Senator and Government leader of the Senate) to sign the letter urging a public debate before the Senate is abolished (July 23rd) I found myself unable to do so.
The reason is that there have been no fewer than 10 different reports, and some quite recently, on reform of the Senate. Nothing of any substance was done. The “informal group” which is now embarking on a campaign to “save the Senate” is putting the cart before the horse.
Before starting their campaign, surely there should be well thought-out, widely supported concrete reform proposals, which have the support of Fine Gael and Labour Senators and which can be put before the Government and the public? Then there might be a realistic possibility of the informed public debate which the group seeks.
There is nothing I would like better than to see a dynamic, relevant, valuable Senate. If and when such proposals are made, I look forward to being able to support them. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I suggest we make changes to the Seanad electoral process in order to determine whether such changes might make the institution more relevant.
These could include: 1. Limit the number of terms a senator can serve to two. 2. Preclude defeated Dáil candidates from standing for election to the Seanad – possibly by closing the nominations before the date of the preceding general election. 3. Likewise, sitting Senators should not be able to stand for the Dáil, or at the very least should immediately resign on declaring their candidature. 4. Directly elect the members, possibly on the same date as the general election, or maybe every five years on the same date as European elections. The direct election of senators would compensate for the disenfranchising of citizens as some local councils are abolished.
Presidential and European elections have shown the capacity of the Irish people to not necessarily vote along party lines. Give the people the opportunity to elect the best and brightest and they may just surprise the cynics. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There is a glaring error in the letter from six former Senators (Letters July 23), as reference is made to the “present unsatisfactory system of electing the Seanad chosen by Dáil Éireann”. As anyone who has fully completed the Challenge Anneka-style vocational panel Seanad election campaign across Ireland will testify, the voters include councillors in addition to members of the Oireachtas. There are six senators elected by third-level graduates and 11 chosen by the taoiseach.
Whether or not the Seanad is to be abolished, the proposal as mentioned in the letter to add an alternative means of being elected to the Dáil has some degree of merit. Incorporating perhaps 10 non-geographic seats would be likely to impart a beneficial perspective to Dáil proceedings. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In October 2009 Enda Kenny stated that it was his intention to abolish Seanad Éireann. In March 2011 Fine Gael and Labour agreed to abolish Seanad Éireann as part of the Programme for Government. Notwithstanding the views of “six former eminent members” (Front page and Letters, July 23rd), I wish to publicly state that if the Seanad still exists at the next election I will not be voting Fine Gael or Labour.
I am tired of the false promises regularly made by all political parties to gain election. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Of the “six eminent former members of the Upper House” who signed a missive (Front page and Letters, July 23rd) to your august publication appealing for the retention of Seanad Éireann – albeit a radically reformed one – only two of them,Mary Henry and John A Murphy were actually elected to the chamber. Brid Rodgers, Mary O’Rourke, TK Whitaker and Maurice Hayes were all appointed to the Seanad by the taoiseach of the day.
The distinguished sextet of one-time parliamentarians proposes changes to the way senators are elected; but do they recommend abolishing the right of taoisigh to appoint 11 (unelected) individuals to the Upper House of the Oireachtas? – Yours, etc,