Reforming the Seanad
A chara, – John Thompson’s letter about the lack of Seanad reform (July 7th) makes some excellent points, chiefly that there has been no serious attempt at changing the structure of the Seanad since the referendum.
However, it does not follow from this that the people were wrong to vote against the Upper House’s abolition, for the principle of retaining a chamber composed of experts, to counteract the power of the Dáil, is worth defending.
The main problem is that much of the suggestions for reform are obsessed with making the Seanad supposedly more democratic, accountable to the people and, essentially, more like a second Dáil.
This is nonsensical duplication, and therefore nobody will take it up seriously. The whole point of the Seanad is that it brings expert voices into the national debate which otherwise would not be heard. It should not be like the Dáil; it should seek instead to be a chamber of sober second thought, led by senators who are not career politicians but instead part-time professionals who take the chance to contribute to the national debate.
If we had brought economists like David McWilliams into the Seanad during the “Celtic Tiger”, the government may have been forewarned of its folly.
However, so long as politicians are accused of being “elitist” for bringing critical, professional opinions into political debate, our Seanad is likely to remain in its current, unloved form. – Is mise,