Bill about ‘transformation’ of Seanad, says Zappone

Move to retain reformed Seanad billed as ‘important occasion in Irish history’

Senator Katherine Zappone: “The best way we can pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much for our freedom is to open up our democracy, not close it.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Senator Katherine Zappone: “The best way we can pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much for our freedom is to open up our democracy, not close it.” Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 


Independent Senator Katherine Zappone described the introduction of a Bill to retain a reformed Seanad as an important occasion in Irish history.

“As we fast approach the many centenary anniversaries associated with the foundation of this State, the best way we can pay tribute to those who sacrificed so much for our freedom is to open up our democracy, not close it.’’

Ms Zappone, who moved the Bill with fellow Independent Feargal Quinn, said it was about “the renewal and transformation of Seanad Éireann’’.

The Seanad Reform Bill 2013, which is being accepted by the Government, proposes to give every citizen a vote in Seanad elections and the extension of the franchise to emigrants and people living in Northern Ireland. It also proposes the make-up of a reformed Seanad be 50 per cent female and 50 per cent male.

The Bill gives additional powers to the Seanad in the scrutiny of legislation, the examination of public appointments and the holding of inquiries.

The Government intends going ahead with its autumn referendum to allow for the Seanad’s abolition or its continuation in its present form.

Mr Quinn said it was a very important Bill. Some 97 years ago last Sunday the execution took place of James Connolly and Sean Mac Diarmada, who had signed the Proclamation which had guaranteed religious and civil liberty and equal rights and opportunities for all citizens. This was something the Irish people had aspired to over the years. He would like to think, he said, that his 16 grandchildren, in years to come, would be living in an Ireland built on similar foundations.

“We should be very careful. The abolition of the Seanad would remove one of the pillars of our system of government.’’

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan said the Bill was comprehensive and many of its proposals were innovative and deserving of detailed consideration. The Government had set out its own stall on the Seanad in the programme for government, and it was its intention to have the promised referendum in the autumn.