Reforming Seanad Éireann by Senator Feargal Quinn
Saturday, 24 October 2015

Over 700 days have now passed since the people voted for the retention – and by implication, reform – of Seanad Éireann. In the intervening period, the Taoiseach has attended the Seanad on two occasions to listen to a debate on Seanad reform, he has also met the leaders of the main parties, and he established the working group on Seanad reform led by Maurice Manning. But is the Taoiseach’s commitment to Seanad reform more illusory than real?...

As we face into a general election, we must judge the Taoiseach by his record on the delivery of Seanad reform – and it’s then that we see that none of the Taoiseach’s activity around Seanad reform bears any significance because the total quantum of Seanad reform which he has delivered is zero.

Having spent over 20 years in the Seanad, this is personally very disappointing for me. It must also be disheartening for Maurice Manning whose comprehensive and considered report on Seanad reform has been totally ignored by the Taoiseach. But most distastefully, if the Taoiseach got a wallop when over 600,000 people rejected his Seanad abolition vanity project, he gave them one back when he thumbed his nose at the prospect of delivering real Seanad reform.

On many issues this Government has relied heavily on focus groups, and the only conclusion that I can draw from the Taoiseach’s failure to reform the Seanad is that the message which the Taoiseach is hearing from focus groups is that they are not clamouring for Seanad reform.

The retention and abolition debate has been closed, the Seanad is here to stay and on any assessment the Seanad in its current guise is neither as effective nor influential as it could be. The people deserve a reformed Seanad and in the remaining lifetime of this Government, the least that the Taoiseach should do is publish the Seanad Bill 2015 and see to it that it is enacted in advance of the election. Parliamentary impotence is in no one’s interests.

It may not be populist, but Seanad reform is the right thing to do.

 

This letter was originally published in The Irish Times.

 
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