Mitchell voices concern over abolishing Seanad

Dublin South FG TD says she disagrees with plan advanced by Taoiseach to abolish Upper House

Olivia Mitchell described Government proposals to abolish Seanad Éireann as “fairly dramatic and far-reaching”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Olivia Mitchell described Government proposals to abolish Seanad Éireann as “fairly dramatic and far-reaching”. Photograph: Eric Luke

Wed, Jun 19, 2013, 15:42

The Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell has become the most senior Fine Gael member to express reservations about Government proposals to abolish Seanad Éireann.

As the debate on the Bill for the referendum to abolish the Upper House got under way last night, Ms Mitchell described the policy, which has been championed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as “fairly dramatic and far-reaching”.

Ms Mitchell outlined her concerns about standing down the Seanad, and called for a discussion on reforming multi-seat constituencies and introducing a list system, intimating that the Government was not willing to “bite the bullet” on those issues.

“Right now without knowing what might replace it or what other reforms might come in tandem with abolition, it is not clear to me how politics, our political process or the national welfare will be informed by the abolition of the Senate, ” she said.

Reforms
In her speech during the second stage debate on the 32nd Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013, Ms Mitchell said promised reforms to the Dáil and committee system to compensate for the absence of the Seanad have not materialised. “Recent changes to the committee system have relegated committee stage of every Bill to be debated in the Dáil basement out of the public eye, and has allowed for only a handful of committee members to be able to put amendments forward. This I believe is a diminution of democracy and not a reform or enhancement,” she said.

‘Piecemeal change’
“No discussion of a new politics can take place without consideration of our multi-seat constituencies and of a possible move to a list system. This is a harder bullet to bite but no one can deny that our electoral system has a detrimental effect on our governance.” She said “piecemeal change” is not the way to go and that the Dáil schedules remained unfriendly to women and families, despite the introduction of gender quotas.

“I am not wedded to the concept of the Senate and certainly not as it is currently operating,” she said, adding that she would welcome an opportunity for the people to have their say and for a real debate on our political system.