Posts filed under ‘Green Party’

All talk, no action? Seanad reform, the Green Party way?

There was great who-ha the other day about Minister John Gormley’s plans and speech on Seanad reform – only 28 years after a referendum was passed at least part of that reform. Anyway, to judge from the hype one would believe that such reform was imminent and just around the corner.

But as the bright boys over on Dublin Opinion suggest “But no one says how fast reforms need to be.” Indeed, and it would appear that in this instance it will be quite a while before anything happens. Why? Because it would appear that there has been no government move with regard to putting the legislation in place to enable such reform (in general at least a two year process) and Gormely was more or less speaking off his own bat. That is the clear implication from the Tanaiste’s less than clear line of answering to Brian Hayes in the Dail the other day.

Deputy Brian Hayes: The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government informed the Seanad last night that it is the Government’s intention to reform the Upper House. In particular, there is a proposal to reform the university seats by merging the two panels together and extending the franchise to all graduates. The latter proposal would implement a referendum decision of the electorate in 1979. When are we likely to see the legislation to implement these proposals? The only way to effect the changes is through primary legislation. Assuming this is an agreed Government initiative, what timeframe is envisaged for its implementation?

The Tánaiste: The Minister pointed out that, in principle, we are of the view that extending the franchise should form part of prospective future reform of the Seanad. He took the first opportunity yesterday to give that indication in the Seanad. I am sure it will be welcomed by Members on all sides of the House given that it is a long-standing recommendation and one that will reflect the far greater participation we are pleased to have reached in third level education. There are many graduates who should have voting rights to those seats along with those who traditionally held them in the past when the situation was different.

The question of when legislation will be brought forward—–

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Surely that is elitism.

The Tánaiste: It is the very antithesis of elitism to extend voting rights to all third level graduates.

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot have a debate on this issue or we will be here all day.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: Why should voting rights be confined to third level graduates?

The Tánaiste: I never thought I would hear a Labour Party Deputy defend the current situation in regard to Seanad seats.

Deputy Emmet Stagg: We do not defend it; we wish to change it.

The Tánaiste: As they say in my part of the country, that beats Banagher.

Deputy Róisín Shortall: My point is that there is no reason that those who had the benefit of attending third level should have separate representation in the Upper House. There is no justification for that.

Deputy Eamon Gilmore: There should be universal suffrage.

Deputy Brian Hayes: There is much to be said about the rotten boroughs that exist. I thank the Tánaiste for his reply. Has a memorandum gone to the Government on this specific issue or was the Minister winging it last night when he spoke in the Seanad?

The Tánaiste: The Minister gave his views—–

Deputy Brian Hayes: That is my point; he gave his views.

The Tánaiste: No. He gave the Government’s views on this matter as part of a wider prospect of reform that should take place. Deputy Brian Hayes may one day get to make a ministerial speech – which I hope he will, although not in the near future.


The Tánaiste: In any case, I hope he will be making speeches as a Deputy rather than a Senator. It is possible for a Minister to give his or her views without a memo to Government. Deputy Hayes should not be too stilted if he ever gets the job.

Deputy Michael D. Higgins: The Minister is simply making a narrative.

Deputy Brian Hayes: There is no legislation proposed. The Tánaiste said this proposal is part of a broader review. In other words, nothing will have happened in five years’ time.

The Tánaiste: That is not the case. Deputy Hayes should accept when somebody says something new.


November 30, 2007 at 11:46 am 1 comment

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