Seanad reform plan to be unveiled

Government to be urged to extend vote to all citizens

Independent Senator Katherine Zappone said the group’s reform proposals could be achieved by way of legislation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Independent Senator Katherine Zappone said the group’s reform proposals could be achieved by way of legislation. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Mon, Jan 13, 2014, 01:00

Six principles to reform the Seanad will be put forward today by the group

Democracy Matters, which successfully opposed its abolition in last year’s referendum.

The group includes Independent Senators Katherine Zappone, Feargal Quinn and John Crown, former senator Joe O’Toole, former minister and Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell and Irish Times columnist and barrister Noel Whelan.

Ms Zappone said yesterday the group’s reform proposals, including the extension of the electoral base to all citizens, would not require a referendum and could be achieved by way of legislation.

“Responsibility for reform rests with the Government and we will be making available to the Taoiseach and his Ministers information and research we have compiled,’’ she added.

Extend vote

The principles to be advocated by the group will include proposals contained in Bills published jointly by Ms Zappone and Mr Quinn and by Prof Crown in advance of the referendum.

The Bill drafted by Ms Zappone and Mr Quinn would extend the vote to all citizens over 18 as well as Irish people living abroad and those in Northern Ireland entitled to citizenship.

Prof Crown’s Bill proposed the extension of the vote to the whole electorate and Irish citizens living abroad.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny announced in the aftermath of the referendum defeat that all third-level graduates would have a vote in future Seanad elections. This is in line with a constitutional amendment passed in 1979.

There will be one six-seat constituency for all graduates, replacing the current two three-seaters covering National University of Ireland and Trinity College graduates.

Conference

As well as the six university senators, the current Seanad is made up of 43 senators elected by five vocational panels, where the electorate is composed of county councillors, TDs and outgoing senators, and 11 taoiseach’s nominees.

The group’s document, “If there is a will to reform, there is a way’’, will be launched at a press conference in Dublin.

Later, at Smock Alley theatre, Exchequer Street, a conference will be held to mark 100 days since the Government’s proposal to abolish the Seanad was defeated.

It will focus on how reform can be achieved through legislative change.

The speakers will include academics Dr Gary Murphy, Dr Jane Suiter, Dr Gavin Barrett, Prof David Farrell and Dr Maureen Gaffney, barrister and former attorney general John Rogers, Mr Quinn, Mr McDowell and Ms Zappone.