Seanad Éireann: Lots to Reform

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

Seanad Referendum in Perspective

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By Michael Marsh

Another weekend of referendums is now over and the debate is well under way as to what the result means: what did the people say when they spoke? We have various evidence to go on: the polls, anecdotal evidence, and the nature of the campaign itself, but all these are flawed. The polls after all were ‘wrong’, or at least did not provide any simple indication of what would happen and so the ‘intentions’ voiced in the polls may diverge from the reality of what people did. Anecdotes are just that, often chosen to fit an argument rather that employed to test one. And the campaign themes themselves are not necessarily those that motivated most voters to pick yes, no, or indeed to switch off. Continue reading

Referendum campaigns are not like election campaigns

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.

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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

Perspective on Seanad Abolition

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.

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Seanad reform – what’s on offer?

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Post by John Carroll
During the past few weeks, we’ve heard much about the Zappone/Quinn and Crowne Seanad bills offering a roadmap for non-constitutional Seanad reform. Apparently these Bills can be the “legislative template” for Seanad reform that could be put in place within 75 days yet surprisingly few people (beyond Richard Humphreys and Eoin O’Malley) seem to have considered what is in them and the issues they throw up.  So, for those interested in what these Bills contain, I’ve put a general summary below, which might give people food for thought. From a cursory reading Continue reading

The people have mumbled. What was it they said?

election-count-1_3By 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

Democracy and Other Matters

Dr Seán Patrick Donlan, School of Law, University of Limerick

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Predictably if depressingly, the debates around the Government referendum on the abolition of the Seanad have proven to be as ideological as intellectual, often more sophomoric than substantive. The vote honours a political promise initially made by parties and personalities now on both sides of the issue. Most of the membership of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, allied in this instance with strange bed-fellows Sinn Féin and the Socialist Party, want a YES vote. Fianna Fáil, who led coalition governments for the fourteen or so years before the debacle of the last general election only two years ago, are now campaigning for a NO result. Continue reading