Abolish The Irish Senate

7 08 2007

From The Irish Examiner

You can’t reform something that is so intimately the property of a small group of entrenched people. We know that the Seanad is, in the main, elected by the thousand or so members of local authorities around Ireland, and that’s a pretty tiny electorate in itself. In fact, it really isn’t possible to be a candidate for the Seanad without the agreement of the national executives, and therefore the leaderships, of the political parties.

Even though there are supposed to be a number of outside nominating bodies to ensure that vocational interests are represented, no candidate put forward by any of those bodies has a snowball’s chance in hell of being voted for unless they also have acceptable party political credentials.

In practice, therefore, apart from the senators elected by the universities, the election of the vast majority of them is effectively determined by the tiny handful of people who control the main political parties in government and opposition.

And don’t get me started on the universities, the rottenest borough of them all, with a wildly out-of-date electoral register and absolutely miniscule participation.

And you can’t defend something that, when you boil it all down, really makes no contribution at all. As a body, despite costing tens of millions a year, it adds nothing to public discourse or debate, and hasn’t done so for years. It has no role whatever, never mind a meaningful role, in terms of providing checks and balances. It can neither delay nor improve legislation, and it certainly can’t initiate it. In other jurisdictions, bicameral systems were either inherited or established for real purposes.

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