Tuesday 24 April 2018

John Crown: Rather than abolishing the Seanad, let's make it work

Reform of the upper house to ensure it's more democratic is the way forward

John Crown

When I ran for election in 2011 I stated that I would campaign for reform or abolition of the currently undemocratic Seanad. This week, I am honouring that commitment by introducing a Seanad reform bill to the chamber, a bill which if passed would not only democratise the electoral process for the upper house by extending the franchise to all adult citizens, but would also make it easier for ordinary citizens to contest Seanad elections.

The current Seanad is an affront to democracy. Forty-three of the 60 members are elected to the Agricultural, Administrative, Cultural/Educational, Industrial/Commercial, and Labour panels by a constituency which is limited to politicians – ie, county councillors and members of the outgoing Oireachtas. Unsurprisingly, these seats closely follow party lines, and all 43 in the current Seanad are from the big four parties.

Another 11 members are directly appointed by the Taoiseach, and while our current Taoiseach has appointed some very worthy and accomplished non-party members to the chamber, these seats are usually seen as political gifts for political loyalists.

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