After the Irish people chose to retain the Seanad last year, the focus has now shifted to the question of reform. The government has announced its intention to reform the University franchise as allowed by the 1978 amendment to the Constitution. The main campaigning platform for Seanad retention, Democracy Matters, has embarked on a new campaign to argue for reform. The Royal Irish Academy recently held a symposium bringing experts on Bicameralism together to discuss the prospects for change.
The main focus of reform is on the extension of the franchise as envisaged in the Zappone-Quinn and Crown bills tabled last year. However David Farrell, in today’s Irish Times, points out Continue reading
Posted on behalf of the RIA
Venue: Academy House
Date: Tuesday 4 February 2014, 11.00-18.00
Following the recent referendum in which the Irish people rejected the proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann, the question of possible directions for reform has emerged as a significant theme in discussion of political change. The aim of this discussion seminar is to place the current reform discourse in its historical context, provide an overview on the reform of second chambers internationally, and finally act as a forum in which potential proposals for the reform of Seanad Éireann can be discussed. This discussion will consider the following key elements:
The role of the Seanad
The composition of membership
The powers of the Seanad
The fallout from the Seanad referendum continues. Various groups (most prominent among them Democracy Matters), political parties (notably Fianna Fáil) and prominent individuals such as Michael McDowell are clamouring for the government to introduce legislation to allow for the direct election of the next Seanad. An editorial in today’s Irish Times makes supportive noises in the same direction, inviting the government to show some ‘flexibility’ on the matter.
To put some comparative context, the table below shows the state of play today in Europe’s 33 democracies. (I would be grateful for information on any errors that might need correcting.) As set out below, the facts speak for themselves. Were we to move to a system of directly electing our Seanad, we would be pretty much a unique case in Europe (based particularly on our small population size and the fact that we have a unitary system of government). Continue reading
This post is based on a brief talk I gave on October 10 at a post-mortem on the referendum organized by the Voters, Parties and Elections section of the Political Studies Association of Ireland.
The more recent referendums on Seanad abolition and the Court of Appeal should give political parties – and particularly their back room strategists – some cause to reflect on how referendums are run in this country. Ireland is third to Switzerland and Italy in terms of the number of referendums held, and yet how we administer referendums and how the parties fight them are still in the Stone Age. With the promise of more referendums to come, this is a problem that needs urgent attention. Continue reading
By Vanessa Liston (CiviQ.eu)
Opinion polls are built into the fabric of our political system. We look to them as a fountain of knowledge on people’s minds, as we search for clues and cues in meandering a fractious course to the polling booth. Yet, given the outcome of the Seanad referendum, that quite dramatically violated most poll predictions, it should be of concern that there are few alternatives to understanding public opinion in such significant decision-making events.
By Seán Patrick Donlan (University of Limerick)
It’s all too easy after any election, no matter how slight the margin of victory, by however small a portion of the electorate, to declare that the result represents a mandate of some sort. When this isn’t merely spin, it’s often the product of wishful thinking, the hope that some clear intention is waiting for us to discover and act on. Indeed, both the winners and losers might desire this clarity so that each can move on with their lives. Continue reading
Post by Kevin Cunningham
PhD Candidate in Political Science at Trinity College Dublin
The Millward Brown/Independent poll conducted between the 13th and 25th of September suggested a 64 per cent to 36 per cent margin in favour of abolition. The Red C/Sunday Business Post poll conducted between the 9th and 11th of September indicated a 59% to 41% margin. The night before the election, Paddy Power offered 1/10 on a Yes vote compared to a 5 to 1 for a No vote.
The error in these polls was a consequence of insufficiently accounting for the likelihood of an individual to turn out. Continue reading
Post by Richard Humphreys SC
In order to offer a ‘workable’ reform that they claim could be on the statute books by Christmas the Quinn/ Zapponne Seanad Reform Bill makes a lot of compromises. Due to the constitutional limitations on what can and cannot be changed by an ordinary bill, the Zappone/Quinn Bill leaves in place a number of key features of the current system that are elitist or irrelevant. Continue reading
Interested in how we can make our parliament fit for purpose? This public discussion on Dáil reform is open to anyone who thinks our Dáil can do more for democracy.
The debate in the run up to the Seanad referendum has not provided sufficient space for debate on wider reform of our parliamentary structures. Continue reading