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Calls for reform as survey shows election bodies 'uncontactable'

A SURVEY of organisations which nominate candidates to the Seanad has found that several are "virtually uncontactable" by the public.

The Old Dublin Society, the Local Authority Medical Specialist Ltd and The Irish Architects Society could not be reached by phone or registered letter.

Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar, who carried out the survey of the 110 nominating bodies for the Seanad, said it showed the urgent need for reform.

"None of these bodies has a public listed phone number and they are joined in that distinction by the Association of Patent and Trademark Attorneys and The Hospitality Institute. Three other nominating bodies only have a PO Box address and six others use a private home address."

However, the Oireachtas public office said that all of the nominating bodies were subject to an annual review by the Seanad returning officer Deirdre Lane. A spokeswoman said she had received nomination forms from all the bodies and had the power to add or delete bodies as she saw fit.

The organisations are responsible for the majority of the nominations for 43 of the 60 Seanad seats, which are elected by county councillors, TDs and senators.

The small size of this electorate - fewer than 1,050 people - has led to frequent calls for reform of the Seanad elections.

There are also another six Seanad seats which are elected by the graduates of two third-level institutions (TCD and the NUI), while 11 other seats are hand-picked by the Taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar, who was elected for the first time last May, said some of the Seanad nominating bodies were little more than a one-man band.

'In fact, they have fewer members and less democratic legitimacy than most residents'

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or sports clubs'

"Many, though genuine, have only a few hundred members. In fact, they have fewer members and less democratic legitimacy than most residents' associations or sports clubs in my Dublin West constituency. This is no way to elect a parliament."

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