Dempsey calls for electoral reform

Sat, Jan 26, 2013, 00:00

Former Fianna Fáil minister Noel Dempsey has called for electoral reform, with a reduced Dáil of 100 single-seat constituencies. He also said the Seanad should be retained, with members elected on a list system.

He was speaking in the Dáil yesterday during a seminar for former Oireachtas members on the balance between the executive and legislature.

Former Progressive Democrats TD and ex-editor of The Irish Times Geraldine Kennedy said committees to reform the Constitution had “become an art form to avoid political action”.

She said the success of the Constitution owed more to the creativity and innovation of the judiciary than to the legislature. Legislative caution had been the watchword in Leinster House for the last half-century, while judicial activism had been a feature of the Supreme Court since the 1960s.

Former Northern Ireland ombudsman Maurice Hayes said the Oireachtas should be involved in the formulation of policy at an early stage as well as in simple legislation.

Dr Hayes said at a time when there was money available, which could have been put into the development of the library for research facilities, every member preferred to have an extra half assistant in their office. “I think the resources are there; it’s the way we use them.”

Secular Constitution

A call was made by historian John A Murphy for God to be taken out of the Constitution in any reform measure. He said any change had to involve secularisation: “Things have changed so enormously and there is a dramatic drop in religious belief.”

Senator Feargal Quinn said Senator Katherine Zappone would introduce legislation next month to reform the Seanad. If the Bill was allowed through, the Government could then put a referendum choice of either abolition or actual reform.