Posted by Eoin O’Malley (15 May)
A new Seanad reform bill was introduced in the Seanad today by Senators Katherine Zappone and Fergal Quinn. It is available here. The main point of the bill are that it should move to a reformed house with new powers, but without requiring constitutional change. It proposed elections by universal suffrage, to close the democratic deficit, with non-geographic constituencies (on these see an interesting post by Michael Gallagher here). The other reforms are to allow the Seanad conduct public inquiries, to monitor secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments), Continue reading
By Michael Gallagher
Like most contributors to the site, I’m unconvinced by what little rationale has so far been offered for the abolition of the Seanad. First, no-one has seriously, or even flippantly, suggested that bicameralism is the cause of the current economic difficulties. Just what is the problem that abolition of the Seanad is supposed to solve? Second, while many Continue reading
Posted by Séin Ó Muineacháin
This is a copy of an article I wrote for the journal Public Affairs Ireland when Enda Kenny first floated the idea of Seanad abolition. It deals with the political and constitutional implications of such a move.
The debate on the necessity of a second house of the Oireachtas has been reawakened in Ireland in recent weeks. This has focused the public mind on what the consequences of such a move would be. The Irish constitutional lawyer, Gerard Hogan is on record as saying “to use a dental analogy, to abolish the Seanad would not be a constitutional filling and more a full root canal treatment with a few extractions”. The abolition of the Seanad would have a number of ramifications for the Irish legislative system, and would require significant amendments to articles in the Constitution that do not necessarily just involve the working and composition of the Seanad, but also those that concern its relationship with other institutions of the state, such as the Dáil, the President and so on.
Posted by David Farrell (January 4, 2011)
The silly season’s came early this year: barely two days into the New Year and a senior government minister flies a kite on abolishing Seanad Éireann. Speculation was rife yesterday that the government might steal a pass on the main opposition parties by setting a referendum question to coincide with spring election. Whether the Greens will wear yet more delay on election day that would result is yet to be seen: tweets from Senator Dan Boyle yesterday suggested they wouldn’t. But it does bring into sharp relief the question of whether the Senate should be abolished: there is a growing consensus among the main parties favouring this; it would be a populist move giving voters an opportunity to kill off an entire class of politicians; it would end Ireland’s anomalous position as one of the few small (non-federal) democracies to have a second chamber; it would save the public purse some money. It seems a clever move. Continue reading
Posted by Eoin O’Malley, 8 December, 2010
Fionnán Sheehan reports in today’s Irish Independent that the government is considering putting a question by referendum on election day to abolish the Seanad. This might be seen as a genuine attempt at reform, a desperate attempt to divert attention from the obvious – the economy -, or a way to deliver some electoral goodies for Green voters. In any case it would hardly seem worth it. First, I suspect nothing will reset the agenda of the election away from anything other than the economy. Second , if it is an attempt at reforming a broken political system, it’ll do little to fix it. And Green voters might not be impressed by this, coming as it does, on the eve of an election – it might smack of desperation. Continue reading
Vincent Browne’s article in today’s Irish Times takes up a familiar theme; typically described as the institutional ‘weakness’ of the Oireachtas, or as Browne puts it rather more forcefully, the idea that the Oireachtas ‘plays no meaningful role in our society’.
In many ways, this is the flip side of the debate on the electoral system reform issue. Even assuming that some sort of reformed electoral system would lead to the election of TDs who were totally focused on playing the role of the national legislatior, engaging with their constituents only to bring their concerns and insights to the national legislative process; what exactly would such TDs actually be able to do in the Oireachtas as presently configured?
I have recently returned from a research fieldtrip to Australia. The following is an extract of an article of mine from The Irish Examiner, April 2 2010.
I have examined the experience of the Australian Senate, of interest in Ireland because of Fine Gael’s proposals to abolish the upper house. (Given the likelihood of a Fine Gael-Labour coalition after the next election, I would like to hear Labour’s plans concerning the Seanad) Continue reading