The Seanad and university representation


Sir, – My colleague, Prof Eunan O’Halpin, argues for the abolition of university representation in Seanad Éireann (Letters, March 4th), but bases his case on the failure of the NUI and University of Dublin representatives to do anything about extending the franchise to other universities.

At the time of the foundation of the State, and even in 1937, it might have seemed desirable to give special hearing to the minority voice of university graduates.

In the present day, however, it seems a standing insult to the many well-informed and responsible citizens without a degree that they should be excluded from the Seanad franchise.

But while the method of choosing senators clearly needs drastic reform, it is not the main problem with the Seanad, which is that it lacks a sufficient purpose: the Constitution simply does not assign it a meaningful role.

It would be easy to reform it in such a way as to create an effective, independent and valued State institution, but that is the last thing politicians want.

The sole obstacle to Seanad reform has always been the Oireachtas. A pity, as it could be a real vote-catcher for any party that adopts it as a policy. I am sure I am one among many of the slim majority who voted for retention of the Seanad in the 2013 referendum to do so solely on the prospect of real reform. Without such reform, the next time we are offered a choice, I won’t have any hesitation in voting for abolition. – Yours, etc,


(Regius Professor

of Greek Emeritus),

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.