Government is defeated on motion to reform Seanad


SEANAD REPORT:THE GOVERNMENT was defeated on an Independents’ motion to reform the Seanad.

Fiona O’Malley (Ind) voted with the Opposition, resulting in a 28-27 outcome. The proposed reform was in the names of Joe O’Toole, Shane Ross, Feargal Quinn and Ronan Mullen.

The motion complained about the “appalling” lack of progress on Seanad reform, and sought the enactment of measures to achieve progressive changes. Among them was a restructuring of the Upper House on the following lines: that 23 members be elected by national vote; six members be elected to a higher education constituency; 23 be indirectly elected to a national constituency by TDs, senators and county councillors; with eight members being nominated by the taoiseach of the day; and an automatically re-elected cathaoirleach.

Fidelma Healy-Eames (FG) said a very clear message she got from a recent OECD meeting was that education spending should not be cut because it was fundamental to enhancing economic growth. “If you are going to touch third-level you must facilitate loans. Let us work together with the students . . . they are our future.”

Shane Ross (Ind) said education expenditure needed to be regarded as an investment in the country’s future. The energy and hope in the economy at present was largely down to multi-nationals and various entrepreneurs. If they saw that educational opportunities were being curtailed, by registration fee increases for example, and that there would not be an adequate talent pool available, they would be less inclined to come here.

Paschal Mooney (FF) said perhaps it was time that teachers themselves started to think about making some sacrifices in terms of the education budget in regard to holding on to their posts of special responsibility and refusing to give up an hour at the end of the day.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern called on the Labour Party to get its act together on the availability of prison spaces. He said Labour’s Ruairí Quinn had recently advocated internment in relation to gangland crime.

Ivana Bacik (Labour) said: “I don’t recall that.”

Mr Ahern said the record would bear out what he was claiming. Such comments were in conflict with Labour complaints about prison overcrowding. As a leading member of the Oireachtas Mr Quinn should know better.