The rejection of the Seanad-abolition referendum in 2013 left more questions unanswered than it asked. However, what was clear from discussion during the referendum is that the Seanad as-is is unsatisfactory to the consensus of people.
With the question still lingering, and numerous reform bills circulating the Oireachtas, the Government announced in December that it was setting up a working group to recommend options for Seanad reform. The group, chaired by Dr. Maurice Manning, comprises former senators and political scientists, including an editor of this website, Dr. Elaine Byrne.
While another referendum appears to be off the cards – the working group’s terms of reference stipulates that it is to keep its recommendations within current constitutional limits – the group is working fast. Its first meeting was on 17 December and it has been asked to make recommendations by March 2015.
Working at such speed, there’s no possibility in the group’s work for an embracing public consultation. Instead, the group’s work appears to be focused on examining former reports on reform (of which there are plenty) and submissions made at the time of the abolition referendum.
The absence of space for a genuine public consultation element is disappointing – even if efficient. Especially given that the Seanad is seen by many as an elitist institution.
Without sight of the submissions from 2013, it’s hard to know their relevance or nature. However, the group has left a window of opportunity for current submissions and will be taking submissions now until 20 January 2015.
See here for details:
The reform campaign group, Second Republic, will be making a formal submission to the working group based on a public survey on Seanad reform.
You can take part by filling in the survey in here:
Naturally, you are invited to share the link with friends, family and the public generally.
*Disclaimer: this is a guest post by Oliver Moran of Second Republic and as such it does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of http://www.politicalreform.ie