When I was last in the House during the summer, I was fulfilling a promise to the Irish people to hold a referendum on the future of the Seanad. The people have now made their decision on this matter and I fully accept and respect that decision.
We will now continue reforming the political system and ensuring that the Seanad is a modern and effective Second Chamber.
I intend to meet the other leaders in the Dáil and Seanad shortly to discuss reforming the Seanad.
Before that meeting, however, I felt it appropriate to come back into this House to hear your views on the matter.
I am aware that a couple of weeks ago, just after the referendum, the Seanad heard statements on reform, and many of you availed of the opportunity to put forward your views on the topic.
The point was made on that occasion that, while it was good to have the opportunity to discuss reform in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, it might be more useful to return to the matter some weeks later, when Senators have had a chance to process the referendum result and think a little more clearly, and in more detail, about how best to proceed with the task of reforming the Upper House.
I welcome the opportunity to be back in the House today to hear, at first hand, your considered views on this matter.
The two areas where reform has been most mooted are the Seanad electoral system and the functions to be assigned to the Upper House.
With regard to the former, through a series of reports and more recently through a number of Bills, various proposals have been put forward as to how Senators should be nominated or selected; who should elect them; and how they should be elected?
We now need to transform these suggestions into workable, legally and constitutionally sound proposals. I want to hear your views on how we can do this.
I have already stated my belief that legislation to give effect to the 1979 decision of the Irish people to extend the Seanad electorate to all graduates should be proceeded with; and I would like the Seanad to input their advice and views on how this can be achieved.
We also need to examine the functions assigned to the Seanad. In doing so we must of course take account of the constitutional parameters within which the Upper House must operate. How can the Second Chamber add real value to the work being undertaken by the Dáil and the various committees?
I believe that it is also timely to look at how the House goes about conducting its business – are its current processes and procedures fit for purpose?
I am of course aware that there has been criticism of how the Dáil does its business and the need to reform that House. The Government will be discussing this matter with the party leaders shortly.
However, that is for another day.
Today’s discussion is about the Seanad and this is your opportunity to put forward practical and workable proposals on how this House can improve the way goes about its business.
I look forward with interest to hearing your thoughts and views.