Government moves to extend voting franchise for Seanad elections

final Bill is expected to be published before the summer recess

Cabinet yesterday gave approval to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to publish the general scheme for the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Amendment Bill.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Cabinet yesterday gave approval to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to publish the general scheme for the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Amendment Bill. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:00

The Government will this week take the first steps in extending the voting franchise for the six university Seanad seats to graduates of all third-level institutions.

The Cabinet yesterday gave approval to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan to publish the general scheme for the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Amendment Bill. The final Bill is expected to be published before the summer recess.

The legislation will give effect to a 1979 amendment to the Constitution which extended the right to vote for candidates on the Seanad’s university panel to graduates other than those of the National University of Ireland or Trinity College.

However, while the amendment was made after voters approved it in a referendum, it was never translated into law.

Following the defeat in last October’s referendum of the Government’s proposal to abolish the Seanad, Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave an undertaking to give effect to that 1979 referendum.

In addition to the legislation, Mr Hogan will also set up a technical working group which will examine the means of setting up an electoral register for the six Seanad seats that will include graduates of third-level institutions accredited for this purpose.

Out-of-date

It will also look at how the register can be maintained on an ongoing basis and will also look at the costs issue. The group is expected to report back to Government by mid-May.

Both the NUI and the Trinity College registers have been criticised for being out-of-date, incomplete and inconsistent. Some of the issues that may be addressed by the technical group will be whether or not graduates opt in to the register; and if graduates living abroad will be entitled to vote in Seanad elections.

Separately, it emerged last night that the Taoiseach will bring forward a number of reforms to Seanad procedures, which will be discussed by the Upper House’s Committee on Procedures and Privileges.

The reforms are designed to increase the scope and influence of the Seanad’s work.