Tuesday 22 August 2017

Vote to ensure Seanad shake-up

Sir -- In last Sunday's paper, Colum Kenny explained why he would not be using his two votes for the university panels in the current Seanad election. He makes a number of very valid criticisms. However, in the end he does write that rather than have the Seanad abolished he would like to see it reformed. Indeed, his suggestion that a reformed Seanad should meet in the old Parliament building in College Green suggests that he believes it should be an institution of enhanced status.

Both government parties are committed to abolishing the Seanad. At least on the university panels most of the candidates are calling for reform. The debate so far has been very thin with calls for abolition, mainly because the Seanad is inefficient and thus costly and calls for reform making the point that a reformed Seanad would be a more effective body. However those who want to abolish the Seanad have not faced up to the facts that the weakness of the Seanad is down to the political parties themselves and the way they have used it.

Myself and my fellow candidates Robin Hanan on the Trinity panel and Seamus Boland on the Administrative Panel have suggested five principles for a reformed Seanad. My personal preference is for a Seanad modelled on the Australian version. Its role is to oversee important government-spending decisions and call the government to account if necessary. It is elected on the same day as the lower house and, most importantly, election is by universal suffrage. Had we such a Seanad there is a good chance the Moriarty Tribunal would have been unnecessary and Fas would never have been allowed go on a spending spree.

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