Students call for abolition of Economic Management Council

USI seeks referendum ‘No’ vote and ‘genuine reform’ of entire political system

Local Ringsend children (Áine, Cian, Cathal, Saoirse) join USI officers at launch of  “Free Our Voice” Seanad reform proposal.

Local Ringsend children (Áine, Cian, Cathal, Saoirse) join USI officers at launch of “Free Our Voice” Seanad reform proposal.

Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 17:04

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has called for a No vote in the upcoming referendum on abolishing the Seanad.

USI president Joe O’Connor said abolition of the Seanad without any attempt to reform it would be a “short-sighted” move on the part of the Government.

Calling for a more democratic and inclusive Seanad, Mr O’Connor said a No vote would represent “a mandate for real reform of the Seanad as opposed to retaining it as it currently stands.”

The union, which represents an estimated 200,000 students of voting age, today set out a number of proposals it says will reform the political system.

USI’s Free Our Voice campaign leads with a call to abolish the Government’s contentious four-member Economic Management Council (EMC).

Chaired by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and comprising Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, the EMC is tasked with deciding all key economic policy decisions.

Mr O’Connor said it was it was “very, very clear” that the introduction of the EMC with its “unelected advisors” is at odds with the Government’s stated aim of promoting open democracy.

“We have unelected advisors who are having a massive say in the economic decisions of this country - arguably more of a say than elected Cabinet ministers,” the USI president said.

Mr O’Connor said the committee, which recently attracted criticism from Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, represented “a steer away from a more open, more consultative democratic system and towards a more closed centre of power”.

Abolishing it, he said, would go “an awful lot further towards” fixing the “broken democracy” in this country than would the abolition of the Seanad.

The USI document also calls for votes for all graduates in Seanad elections, an emigrant panel, increased powers for the Seanad to review past and present legislation and a lowering of the voting age to 16.

Mr O’Connor said a vote in Seanad elections for every emigrant would be another way for the house to become more representative of Irish society.

“We are talking about a vote for every emigrant through the embassies. It’s something that has been set up in other democracies that we have studied across the world.

“Whole communities and families have been split apart by the impact of mass emigration (and) the creation of an emigrant panel is another way where Seanad Éireann can become more representative of our societ y and of our democracy as a whole,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said a reconstituted Seanad with improved powers would review past legislation, learn from mistakes and prepare evidence-based policy reports on legislation that goes through the Dáil.

The USI, which is currently organising a voter registration campaign, will publicise its position on the referendum across the country’s third level colleges and universities over the coming weeks.

The referendum on abolishing the Seanad takes place on October 4th.