Role of the Seanad

 

Madam, – Enda Kenny’s surprise announcement that he is to seek the electorate’s permission to abolish the Seanad is a brave step for a taoiseach-in-waiting, who to date has been tardy in displaying any of his reputed mettle to voters.

Decades of dithering and obfuscation on reform of this particular Dead Zoo have led absolutely nowhere, so perhaps Mr Kenny’s call for abolition might finally focus minds on whether we need a salaried, pensionable and ludicrously costly second chamber.

My fear is that complete abolition would rob the legislature of the few independent, diverse and learned voices who have served the Seanad and the people so well.

Were all salaries and expenses to be abolished for Seanad members, I suspect there would still be many citizens who would be proud to go forward for election to serve the State in a voluntary and truly vocational capacity. – Yours, etc,

Dr MAURICE GUÉRET,

Fortfield Road,

Terenure,

Dublin 6W.

Madam, – I agree with Enda Kenny that the Seanad has outlived its usefulness and with Noel Dempsey that it no longer has a role.

Its legislative achievements are derisory, its members largely lack-lustre and its cost prohibitive. The original objective to represent the “minority” tradition, while arguably valid in 1922 or 1937, is now largely anachronistic, the exceptions being the wonderful contributions of David Norris and Shane Ross. They are also exceptional, along with NUI, in  representing constituencies with a 60,000 electorate, which is more than most TDs can claim.

However, before supporting any list system for electing some TDs along the lines Mr Kenny proposes, I would want assurance that these lists will not be packed in the usual way by party leaders with political wannabes, has-beens or Caligulan self-indulgence. – Yours etc,

MICHAEL ANDERSON,

Baldoyle,

Dublin 13.

Madam, – Just when you thought that there couldn’t possibly be another reason for not wanting Enda Kenny to be the next taoiseach, along comes his “uno Duce, una voce” stance on the Seanad. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK O’BYRNE,

Shandon Crescent,

Phibsborough,

Dublin 7.

Madam, – As reported by Harry McGee (Home News, October 16th), the process of holding byelections for two vacant Seanad seats, one for the administrative panel and the other for the agricultural panel, has been initiated.

Bizarrely, only members of the Oireachtas can vote in Seanad vocational panel byelections, which means that the Government is almost certain of winning both seats as things stand.

Accordingly, only various Fianna Fáil and Green Party candidates are being spoken of as realistic candidates for these byelections.

However, as the vacancy on the administrative panel is with respect to a seat elected from a nominating bodies sub-panel in 2007, candidates must obtain support from of at least one specified organisation entitled to put forward nominations for that panel.

The administrative panel byelection could allow a candidate to run on a policy platform shared by a number of the relevant organisations.

These nominating bodies all have a set agenda and a list of aims they would wish the Government to adhere to, and it makes eminent sense for them not to give any Government candidate their support unless they secure commitments from the Cabinet in lieu of that support. – Yours, etc,

JOHN KENNEDY,

Knocknashee,

Goatstown,

Dublin 14.

Madam, – I think the abolition of the Seanad is an excellent idea, but what would we do with the empty chamber?

Well, we might seriously consider moving the Abbey Theatre there.

I’m sure the effusive Senator David Norris would see the merit in such a proposal.

PAUL DELANEY,

Beacon Hill,

Dalkey,

Co Dublin.

Madam, – Enda Kenny is correct to call for the abolition of Seanad Éireann.

This expensive but totally irrelevant institution cut its work week by 50 per cent this week, from three to 1½ days, because a mere seven of its 60 members are attending the British/Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Swansea.

A referendum on the matter cannot come soon enough. – Yours, etc,

ANTHONY SHERIDAN,

Carraig Eoin

Cobh, Co Cork.