If you want to see political reform, write it in on your ballot paper
Opinion: It is a measure of how disillusisoned we are that the Government’s cynicism no longer shocks us
Still fewer seemed to notice that a Government that announces another anti-bullying measure for our education system every few weeks is operating a political system where attempting to bully into submission those who do not agree with it is an everyday tactic.
In recent times, anything that threatens government power, or even threatens to make it vaguely uncomfortable, disappears.
Take the Constitutional Convention. Its members voted overwhelmingly in favour of citizens’ initiatives, whereby citizens who could collect a sufficient number of signatures would be able to initiate referendums and influence the legislative agenda.
There has been a deafening silence since about that measure, just as a proposal that citizens should have a direct role in the selection of presidential candidates quietly disappeared.
Yet other measures passed by similar majorities of the Constitutional Convention have been welcomed effusively, because they chime with a particular Government agenda.
The Seanad may have significant problems at the moment but it is a part of our democratic system in which contrary voices are unafraid to speak out.
As the whip system grows ever more draconian, that freedom of expression is badly needed.
The case for abolition rests on populism, not long-term thinking. By giving us a choice that is no choice at all, in other words, abolition or nothing, it displays contempt for the electorate.
I grew up in a household where voting was viewed both as a precious right and a duty. My parents would have been horrified at the idea of anyone spoiling a vote.
Therefore, I don’t suggest this lightly. However, I think anyone concerned about the unhealthy centralisation of power should choose No to abolition, and then write “Reform” on the ballot.
It will be set aside for later examination and, as any fair-minded scrutineer could only find there was a clear intention to vote No, it will in all probability be counted in that way.
But a significant message will have been sent to an administration that wrote in its programme for government: “Our aim, when our legislative and constitutional changes are implemented, is that Ireland will be a transformed country.”
Vote No to Seanad abolition, and by marking “Reform” on the ballot, send a message both about the kind of transformation we fear, and the transformation for which we still hope.