Seanad Reform: Electoral System

In my first post on Seanad Reform, I am going to look at ideas on how to change the system of elections. The Report On Seanad Reform (PDF) by the Seanad Éireann Committee on Procedure and Privileges, Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform, has analysed a few suggestions. This may repeat some of these. I am not going to explain how the current system works as that can at times confuse me! I will look at the Electoral System under a few headings: When, Electoral System, Nominees, Term, Size and Constituencies. Under each I will give my preffered option.

When Should the Seanad be Elected?
Some people think the Seanad should be eleced at a seperated day to the Dáil maybe at midterm say during the Local and European Elections? I do not think this will work though as Governments do not always last their full term, though lately they are. I think the Seanad Elections should not be decoupled from the Dáil for reason of stable Government. To have them decoupled could give a majority in the Dáil, but a Government would have to wait nearly two years before it could get a majority in the Seanad.

My Preffered Option: The Seanad should be voted for on the Same day as the Dáil.

Which Electoral System should be used?
Now this is the fun part as this will effect proposed constituencies and the size of the house. As the constitution sets out that elections should be by Propotional Representation, I will limit myself to those systems. There are a number of options availible.

We can use PRSTV but with larger constituencies or the same. I dont see this one working without making the Seanad larger.

We can use PR List with the same constituencies as the European Elections or a slight modification as there is more seats. We can also use the whole state as a constituency like Israel. The list system gives a wide range of options that we can use, it can be open or closed, we can use different allocation methods, D’Hondt method, Sainte-Laguë method, modified Sainte-Laguë method and LR-Hare method. All sound confusing don’t they. There basic mathematical formulas either largest remainder or highest average.

Or we can be different and use the Additional-member system. Here we have a constituency and list vote. That could be confusing as it would involve three ballots on the same day, but then again some people do that at the Local and European Elections (Town, County, Europe). Would make the count even longer though!

My Preffered Option: Open PR-List where you can rate candidates within the list, taking some power away from party HQ’s. I would probably go for the D’Hondt method as that is a fair method of distribution.

Nominees by the Taoiseach
This is something I think we should keep. But not to nominate so many. I think the Taoiseach nominees can be important to ensure the Government can get legislation through. 11 is too many though, I think that should be reduced to about 7. Also the Taosiheach should be encouraged (by statute?) to nominate representatives from minority groupings.

Term
I think the Seanad Term should be the same as the Dáil with no restriction on repeat terms. This is to ensure consistency among other things.

Size
The size of the Seanad should be increased. 60 is too small to be divided across many constituencies or even a National Constituency. I think the Seanad should be increased to about 70 but should be no higher then 80.

Constituency
The Seanad report gives 3 constiuencies in its recommendations (1 national, 1 Higher Education and 1 indirect). I disagree with having a seperate Higher Education Constituency, so I think there should be just one National Constituency electing 63 Senators. The Taoisheach then appoints the final 7.

So anyone else got thoughts on this aspect of Seanad Reform?

Reforms

I have been doing a bit of thinking lately about Seanad reform. The Lisbon Treaty presents the perfect opportunity for the Government to reform the Seanad as under the treaty the Seanad will have a seperate vote to the Dáil on prospective EU Legislation. Over the next few todays I will be posting under a range of headings some ideas for Seanad Reform.

Incidently this week will see a Green Paper on Local Government Reform. I have a lot of ideas in this area myself so I will certainly be blogging about that too!

Reform of British Government

Gordon Brown yesterday revealed sweeping changes to how Britain is to be governed. Huge changes are planned in how the UK will be run.

You can read the Green Paper, The Governance of Britain (PDF) on the No 10 website.

As soon as I have read it, I’ll post my opinion on it

Morning Briefing, 7th March


Dia Duit!

Rinne mé dearmad ar Seachtain na Gaeilge atá ar suil an seachatin seo! Tá dhá bebo agus myspace amhain or an idirlion!

SnaG – SeachtainNaGaeilge.bebo.com

Ceol – SnaGCeol.bebo.com

www.myspace.com/snagceol

An nuacht ar an maidin seo!

Northern Ireland goes goes to the polls today in a very decisive election. (CNN, Breakingnews, RTÉ, BBC, France 24) The Polls are open until 10pm tonight with the counting begining tomorrow. 250 candidates are contesting 108 seats. The election is by PRSTV, so transfers are critical for the last seats in each constituency, just like down here in the south!

Trocaire is to challenge the ban on its advertising (Breakingnews). This will be an interesting challenge, first time id say a charity has been forced to pull its ads!

Commonwealth troops serving in the Britsih Armed Forces are to form their own union. (BBC) They seam to be very dissatisfied with their treatment in the army.

The Dáil has passed rushed legislation to outlaw the soliciting children for sex. (RTÉ, Breakingnews). The Bill will go through the Seanad today and then onto the President of signature.

UK MP’s will have a free vote today on house of Lord’s Reform after two days of debate (BBC). There is a range of option on the table. The choices before MPs are: all elected; 80% elected and 20% appointed; 60% elected and 40% appointed; half and half; 40% elected and 60% appointed; 20% elected and 80% appointed; all appointed. Its is expected that a mixture will be the preffered option.

bhuel sinn é!

Slán!

Morning Briefing, 17th January

Cork City is to get a new Central Library (Cork City Council) Wooo!

RTÉ viewers choose our song for the Eurovision last night. Its a John Waters/ Tommy Moran composition called ‘They can’t stop the Spring’.

The PD’s continue their conference today (Breakingnews, RTÉ) Among the guest speakers are Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses Organisation and Anne-mie Neyts, President of the European Liberal Democrats.

A Bosnian Court has sentenced a former Serb soldier to 34 years in jail for killing, enslaving and raping Muslim civilians during the country’s 1992-1995 war (France 24)

Proposed reforms of the Irish Criminal System are to be discussed by experts at an ICCL Forum (Breakingnews)

Lesotho goes to the polls today in a tight race for power (CNN)

$10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses (CNN) What a waste of money! All the people that it could be helping

Tánaiste finally accepts Garda lack of resources after years of denial

FG electronic tagging proposals would have put Marlo’s 23 associates under 24 hour monitoringJustice Minister Michael McDowell has made a complete U-turn on Garda resourcing today by suddenly publishing an uncosted package of crime proposals (Tuesday), only days after he insisted that resourcing was not an issue, according to Fine Gael Justice Spokesman Jim O’Keeffe TD.

‘The problem of Garda resources is not a new one, but the Tánaiste is only now waking up to the scale of the problem. Fine Gael has been demanding increases in Garda equipment and manpower for years. Only last Sunday the Minister announced that Garda resourcing was not an issue, but the Minister has now undergone a miraculous Pauline conversion. Much of this proposed new spending is not contained in the Department of Justice’s Estimates for 2007, most notably the increase in the Garda Reserve and ‘unlimited’ investment in the Witness Protection Scheme. However, he has failed to put the Witness Protection Scheme on a statutory basis and it will continue its steady decline.

‘The most newsworthy element of the Minister’s ‘new’ proposals is that they closely mirror Fine Gael and Labour’s joint policing policy launched this week. The Minister has adopted Fine Gael’s proposals to further increase policing numbers, but has failed to make provision for future expansion in line with demographic changes. He has also followed Fine Gael’s lead on the need for more civilianisation. Last April I identified that 225 Garda positions in human resources, IT and the Garda Press Office could be civilianised overnight. Why did Michael McDowell wait so long before taking action? And why has he so consistently rubbished this idea, only to finally accept it?

‘The Minister is doing nothing to strengthen the bail laws, is making no provision for the Special Criminal Court to try lethal criminals, and has no plans to beef up the Criminal Assets Bureau. The Minister has rowed back on his criticism of the judiciary and will not accept Fine Gael’s common sense proposal to electronically tag persons on bail, which would have provided 24 hour surveillance of lethal criminals, including the 23 associates of the murdered ganglord Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland.

‘Fine Gael will publish a schedule of offences that the DPP must consider for prosecution in the Special Criminal Court, increase the powers and the spread of the CAB, allow the DPP to appeal bail more readily, bring in new legislation for a statutory witness protection programme, and take a firm stand on organised and gangland crime the way we did in the aftermath of the murder of Veronica Guerin when last we were in Government.

‘The Fianna Fáil/PD Government has lost the plot on crime, changing its policies on a weekly basis, lacking any new initiatives, and refusing to implement sensible and effective opposition proposals. In the absence of any conviction for gangland crime since John Gilligan, Michael McDowell has yet to claim any significant victory against crime as Minister for Justice. Perhaps he should go back to the Law Library where his record is not so shameful.’

Policing Our Communities – A Joint FG/Lab Policy on Garda Reform


Just received this in an email from the Fine Gael Press Office.

Main Points

*Effective Community Policing
*Root and Branch Reform of the EU
*An Independent Garda Authroity
*Increasing Frontline Gardai
*Imporved Training
*Improved Diversity
*New Organisational Structure

From just leafing through the document, in the part about encouraging diversity one of the communities to be targeted is the Gay Community. I dont have time to give a full analysis so the link to the full policy is below.

Policing Our Communities – An Agreed Agenda on Garda Reform