Friday 16 November 2018

No political will to rock the cosy boat that is the Seanad

THE composition of the incoming Seanad will be known within the next few days when an antiquated and bizarre electoral procedure reaches its final stage. The second House of the Oireachtas receives little media or public attention between elections though individual senators bas

THE composition of the incoming Seanad will be known within the next few days when an antiquated and bizarre electoral procedure reaches its final stage. The second House of the Oireachtas receives little media or public attention between elections though individual senators bask in continuous publicity. However, the Seanad's shortcomings are well noted at election times, the criticism being particularly sharp on this occasion. Perhaps it is the fashionable concern with "equality" that currently highlights the glaringly restricted and unequal nature of the Seanad franchise.

Various calls for structural and electoral reform of Seanad Eireann have been made over the decades and the House itself is much given to regular bouts of navel inspection. Occasionally, abolition rather than reform is mooted. The classic criticism of the very existence of a second chamber was made by the Abbe Sieyes, the great political survivor of the bewildering constitutional changes of the French revolutionary period. He put the point succinctly, some would say simplistically. If the second chamber clashes with the first, it is pernicious: if it duplicates the work of the first, it is superfluous.

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