Two graduates from 1906 still on NUI Seanad election register

 

TWO PEOPLE who graduated in 1906 remain on the National University of Ireland’s register for Seanad elections, according to research conducted by an NUI Galway academic.

Dr Aidan Kane from the university’s economics department has discovered that the register of 97,000 includes more than 120 people who graduated in 1930 or before. If they graduated at the young age of 20, it means that all are aged 100 or over if they are still alive. The 1906 graduates would be at least 125 years of age.

The centenary graduates were a number of seeming anomalies found by Dr Kane in his study of the register, which he did at the behest of Donncha O’Connell, a law lecturer at the university who is a candidate for one of the three NUI seats in the Seanad.

The other major trend that was identified was the large decline in the numbers being added to the register in recent years, despite the absolute number of graduates increasing each year.

While upwards of 2,500 new graduates were being added to the register each year in the 1980s, the number has fallen dramatically in recent years. In 2007, it fell to 1,342, in 2008 it was 1,116 and in 2009 it declined to 700.

There were almost 9,000 graduates in the four NUI universities – Dublin, Cork, Galway and Maynooth – in 2008, suggesting that only one in eight graduates is registering to vote.

Mr O’Connell said yesterday the research underlined major shortcomings in the register and in the manner in which a national parliament elected members of its Upper House. It did not help the perception of the university constituencies as “rotten boroughs”.

“The Seanad should be elected by universal suffrage, but on the basis of different constituencies than those used for Dáil elections. The current system of privileged voting for local councillors and certain university graduates is indefensible and far from democratic.”

Mr O’Connell said the only way to change the perception of university constituencies was “to reform the Seanad so that it becomes a truly functioning second chamber of a national parliament elected by all of the people”.

An NUI representative was not available yesterday to respond but one source familiar with the register pointed out that graduates were not registered automatically but needed to opt in. The source said much work had been done to update the register and make sure that papers were not sent out to deceased graduates or those who had long vacated addresses at which they registered.