Seanad reform needs to be top priority for the government

-   Deirdre Clune MEP

Following the decision of the Irish people not to abolish the Senate over the weekend, Fine Gael Senator Deirdre Clune is calling on the Government to introduce reforms to the current Senate. Senator Clune is emphasizing that these changes could be accommodated without another costly referendum.

I believe that the people of Ireland voted for reform, they certainly do not want the Seanad to remain as it is currently.

I also suspect that people do not want another referendum on this matter. It would be nonsensical to suggest launching another lengthy campaign or even to wait until the General Election.

“It is essential that the appropriate actions are taken as soon as possible. This is within reason as I do appreciate that political overhaul is not a matter which should be rushed.

There are numerous reports and recommendations available to the government to consult in order to implement the necessary changes to make the upper house fit for purpose.

There is an overwhelming wish of the current Senate to change the situation and the government should engage with the Senate and the public wishes to introduce crucial changes.

Article 18 of the Constitution concerns the Senate and its composition, at present 6 senators are elected by the graduates of the National University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin.

In my view, this franchise should be extended to our other institutions of education for example the Cork Institute of Technology.

We already have had a referendum on the seventh Amendment of the Constitution Act 1979.

However that amendment was never enacted and I feel that the people have spoken therefore now is the opportunity to act.
I do recognise that not everyone in the state has a third level qualification; however this change would embrace far more of our citizens and there would be no need for referendum as the move would be in line with our constitution.

At present those graduates of NUI and TCD are the only members of our Diaspora who can vote in any local or national election.

Another positive aspect of this proposed change is that it would also allow graduates living abroad to have their say in the Oireachtas.

There are a growing number of people from all educational backgrounds who have emigrated but would like to be connected to Ireland in some way, many of these people will return here and it is important that their voices’ be heard.
The prospect of restricting candidates to standing for the Dail or Senate should be examined before the next general election.

This would mean that a prospective candidate would only run for a Seanad or Dail seat and not both.
In the meantime the Seanad can play a greater role in reviewing EU legislative and policy proposals.

Our membership of the EU has a strong influence in many of Ireland’s legislative proposals.

However we do not spend enough time or effort on informing ourselves of EU proposals which are highly relevant toIreland.

I believe the Seanad can play a role inIreland’s Oireachtas becoming more involved and engaged with these essential issues.

The most important role of the Seanad is to scrutinise the legislation which comes before it.

This function will never disappear but there are other significant ways it could enhance our democracy.

I believe that there is a massive appetite for change in Irish politics and now the Government has the chance to spearhead reforming our parliament for the better.

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