FG Want to Abolish The Seanad

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Last night the at the Fine Gael Presidential Dinner, Enda Kenny announced the following:

I believe the Seanad should be abolished and the next Fine Gael Government will put this to the people. I have come to the conclusion that a second house of the Oireachtas can no longer be justified. In abolishing Seanad Eireann, I have examined the outcome of similar decisions in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand. Our two-house Oireachtas is an odd man out in Europe. Two-thirds of all European Parliaments are unicameral. Those that are not tend to be large or federal.

Well Mr. Kenny I think we disagree on this. In my view the upper house plays a vital role in our legislative process. It is independent (due to how it is elected) but I do think it needs reform.

Its strange in a week that Dan Sullivan points out, on Irish Election,  that if Fianna Fail manage to win the General Election, they could have a minority in the Seanad.

This stinks of populism. I think the Seanad needs root and branch reform (in fact our entire system needs that!) including being open to election by all on a PR list (based on European Election Constituencies, thats my idea anyway)

So do ye think FG is right to call for the abolition of the Seanad?

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Author: Stephen

Cork born and bred, proud European and Irishman. Involved in many organisations and politics. Also writes for SpirtualityIreland.org and UCC Express.

18 thoughts on “FG Want to Abolish The Seanad”

  1. There is no need for an upper chamber in a non-federal state the size of Ireland. Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine all manage perfectly well as unicameral states. Indeed, Sweden (in 1970) and Croatia (in 2001) actually abolished their upper chambers as part of a programme of democratisation.

    I am totally puzzled that you think the Seanad is in any way independent. In its 72 years of existence it has rejected precisely one government legislative proposal, not exactly a stellar track record for a revising chamber.

    1. Maybe I Nicholas I also think the Seanad should have more power. It is precisely because of the way it is elected that it is proving to be useless. If it had a democratic mandate and more powers, it would be a fine check on the powers of the Dáil. I wouldnt trust a single chamber Irish Parliament.

  2. Rejection of proposals is not the only measure of effectiveness of a revising chamber, but the point is valid enough all right.

    I’d not abolish the Senate. I would simply eliminate all payment for the services of Senators, reasonable expenses excluded. If that resulted in less young aspirant TDs and more (literally) superannuated grey heads, what would be wrong with that ?

  3. I’d be against abolishing the Seanad too. Though it definitely needs reform, I don’t think it should become too directly democratic, because otherwise there’s no point to it, and we might as well just have the Dáil on its own. The aim should be to have a chamber that will provide expert opinion on different areas of public life and act as a break to the Dáil where necessary; ideally, it’s also be cheap.

  4. The aim should be to have a chamber that will provide expert opinion on different areas of public life and act as a break to the Dáil where necessary; ideally, it’s also be cheap.

    Here, here conor, that is an advantage to an upper chamber, but is there anything in Irish Politics that is cheap? (Apart from morals?)

  5. This is the best idea that FG have ever come up with. The Senate is a rag-bag of pompous bombastic boors like Eoghan Harris, Ivana Bacik and David Norris as well as a kind of waiting room between elections for TDs who lose their seats like Mary O’ Rourke and Donie Cassidy. They are a serious drain on the economy and I have yet to figure out what they actually do. The galling thing about it is they claim exorbiatnt expenses also 100,00 Euro is typical and in total the 60 members of the Seanad claimed 5.6 million euro in expenses. This on top a basic 70,000 euro wage for doing nothing!. Bad and all as our collection of TDs are at least we get the chance to give them their marching orders if they don’t perform – not that we are very efficient at it but for Christ sake Eoghan Harris got appointed to the Seanad by Bertie Ahern as a reward for his support .

    1. I would disagree Sionnach, I think the Seanad could play alot better role but it is constrained by the Constitution. A radical reform of the Seanad Eireann is something that we need in this country.

      Abolishment of the Seanad harks back to the 1930’s when FF did it to make easy for them. Abolishing the seanad is the easy option IMO. Radical reform would be the gutsy move.

  6. Stephen, you say ‘I wouldnt trust a single chamber Irish Parliament.’ Effectively that is what you have already, since the Senate is pretty useless.

    Fergus, you “would simply eliminate all payment for the services of Senators, reasonable expenses excluded”. That will ensure that only the rich, or those with rich spouses/parents, can afford to be Senators. Is that really what you want?

  7. I think what we need is effective, principled leadership, not just a talking shop for the sake of it. I know there are some very principled and hard-working Senators, but it is also true to say that it is a “consolation prize” for not having been elected at a General Election, through the Taoiseach’s nominees. I do believe it should be abolished, but I do also believe that the shape of our Dail has to change as well and our mindset as a nation which regards our local TD as somehow the guardian of our local patch instead of being a national legislator.

  8. Stephen, I’ve been banging away at this for a good number of years now and I’m surprised that Enda has decided to go now the abolition route. I will be continuing to make the case for reform rather than abolition.

    When people ask what the Seanad does, the dull fact is that it does what the Dáil were it to function as a unicameral chamber should do but doesn’t. Removing the Seanad would not necessarily lead to more TDs involving themselves in the committee work that is need to scrutinise legislation and the Seanad should if reformed act as a counterweight to the overly clientist focus of the Dáil. It is because Dáil is comprised of so locally focused that we need another chamber populated by people who are elected not on the basis of where they live. It might shock people but we’re not just members of geographically based communities but shared common cause with other people in Ireland based on characteristics beyond our address, whether those causes are based on professional background or expertise or personal experience with matters such as being carers or working with a disability or whatever the case may be. People who would seek to speak on behalf of people separate to the geographical can still only be currently elected based on locale.

  9. Hear, hear Daniel. I know this has been one of the issues for you as you have done a lot of work around the reform of the University votes. That is a good point on the composition of the upper house, so maybe a National List system is in order?

  10. Great to see others thinking abour reforming the Seanad. I too think the Seanad could be a useful enterprise for connecting technical expertise to the Dáil. The talk of what other countries do is pure nonesense. Especially in terms of political reform. This is the most misguided of all arguments. Political Parties in all systems are driven by their own self interest. All will vere towards list systems and unicameral systems as both of these increase their power. FF twice tried to introduce a FPTP system here to consolidate their power. On both time sthis was rejected. I am amazed that Labour are also seeking to abolish the Seanad, but am delighted to see that they are opposing the list system.

    Here is something to dwell on:

    It is argued that clienteleism is the cause of our recent economic woes and some are laying the blame at PR-STV.

    In 2004 the canadian province of British Columbia instituted a Citizens Assembly to determine the best electoral system, out of all systems. Canadian Politics is rife with clienteleism far worse than ours, MPs often spend the weeks in their constituency. Note also that this has had no effect on their ability to manage the economic crisis. They came out of it relatively unscathed.

    Anyway, after reviewing all systems and undertaking extensive research, they came up with.. PR STV (our system) by a vote of 94%.

    PR STV was then put to the vote. In spite of a majority passing the change, guess who, but it was the political parties that vetoed the system.

    This is because it is a system that political parties hate because it means they have to do some work. Be very aware of political parties using this as an excuse to change the electoral system.

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