University representation in the Seanad

 

Sir, – I note that a University of Limerick graduate is taking a constitutional action relating to the university franchise (“Failure to extend Seanad vote is unconstitutional, High Court told”, News, March 3rd).

As long ago as August 1979, the seventh amendment to the Constitution permitted the reform by law of the university franchise to allow holders of degrees from Irish institutions other than the NUI colleges and the University of Dublin (Trinity College) to be represented in Seanad Éireann in a separate constituency. This would necessitate a reallocation of the six university seats, with three constituencies each holding two seats.

Inaction since 1979 on foot of this amendment has perpetuated a manifest injustice, whereby many thousands of Irish graduates holding degrees accredited by the State are denied participation in the election of senators.

It is compounded by the anomaly that anyone holding degrees from both the NUI and the University of Dublin can in practice vote in each of the two university constituencies.

Advocates of university representation maintain that “university senators” are somehow a distinct breed, focused not on grubby party politics but on speaking truth unto power, proactive and progressive in matters of justice and equity. Yet since 1979, the six NUI and University of Dublin senators have done precisely nothing to remedy the one obvious injustice in Irish life which they are uniquely placed to address.

This is plainly because the solution – to legislate to provide three university constituencies, each with two seats – would necessarily see the NUI and University of Dublin senatorial cohorts each reduced by one seat.

The self-serving inaction of university senators in this matter over the last four decades gives the lie to their collective image of fearless champions of the public good, and makes a stronger case for the abolition of university representation than for its perpetuation. – Yours, etc,

EUNAN O’HALPIN, FTCD

Professor of Contemporary

Irish History,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.