Call for IT alumni to have vote in Seanad elections

 

The director of Sligo Institute of Technology has called for the implementation of legislation allowing graduates of the State's Institutes of Technology to vote in the university panel in all future Seanad elections.

Dr Richard Thorne claims the current system of electing six university seats is based on outmoded criteria and at variance with the intent of the seventh amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted in 1979.

Currently, there are six Seanad seats on the university panel; three are elected from the National University of Ireland and three from the University of Dublin.

The legal basis for this dates back to 1937, under the Seanad Electoral Act. However, the Constitution was amended in 1979 to allow for legislation whereby the university constituencies would include other third-level institutions. But no such legislation has yet been enacted.

"As a result," Dr Thorne points out, "up to one-third of graduates from higher education colleges, including all graduates of the 13 institutes of technology, are denied a Seanad vote."

He says graduates of ITs who complete courses of at least three years' duration should be eligible to vote. The current legislation was never intended to create apartheid between different types of graduates, and the spirit of the Constitution should be implemented.

"I don't believe there has been a conspiracy in not having such legislation brought forward. But we have a situation now in higher education where almost half of people studying are doing so in non-university institutions, and I think it's time our graduates had a say."

Sligo IT had been in existence for 30 years, and other institutes had been established for even longer. "We know we have graduates who are in positions of influence in the commercial, business and industrial arenas", he says.

"I have no doubt that these people feel a strong sense of allegiance to the institutes from which they graduated, and no doubt that they would be interested in participating in the democratic process in this way."