One in three say 'reformed' Seanad has future
Published 09/01/2011 | 05:00
One in three Irish people believe that Seanad Eireann has a future -- but only if properly reformed, according to a Sunday Independent/ Quantum Research Poll.
But there is widespread public indifference about the so-called Upper House of the Irish parliament -- a fact reflected in the poll findings that about 59 per cent of people want it abolished.
Less than one in 12 want the Senate to remain in its current guise.
As one urban female respondent to this weekend's Sunday Independent/Quantum Research telephone poll put it: "I haven't even got a clue what exactly the Seanad does -- so I think it should be abolished."
The poll found that 59 per cent simply want the Seanad abolished, 33 per cent want it reformed in some way and only eight per cent want it left as it is.
The research found that of those who believed the Seanad should be abolished, many think it is a waste of money.
People simply did not see what contribution the Seanad made to Irish political life and many respondents thought it was little more than an expensive talking shop for aspiring politicians.
However, a significant number of people, 33 per cent, thought the Seanad should be reformed and made more cost-effective -- principally through a reduction in the numbers of sitting senators.
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Many respondents also thought the Seanad's functions should be made clearer to the public. Only eight per cent thought it should be left as it is, proving that the issues surrounding it are a live political issue.
The poll comes amid the debate, largely between Fine Gael and Labour, as to whether the Seanad should be abolished or reformed and if so, how.
Labour wants an examination of the entire electoral system, while Fine Gael has promised to hold a referendum on abolishing the Seanad.
Some of the 500 respondents to the poll also reflected the view that the debate over the future of the Seanad was only a small part of the need for reform of the parliamentary structures generally.
One male rural respondent observed: "The whole Seanad debate is just a smoke-screen to avoid reforming the real problem -- the Dail."
Reflecting the view that only a tiny minority of eight per cent felt the Seanad should be left as it is, another respondent commented: "The numbers in the Seanad need to be radically reformed and the number of senators reduced significantly."
There are currently 60 members of Seanad Eireann: 43 are elected by various panels reflecting economic and social elements of society; six are elected by graduates of NUI and TCD and 11 are appointed directly by the Taoiseach of the day.