Would it be a good idea for the south to get rid of its Seanad? That’s a debate that’s running with some energy on the other side of the border these days. There’s talk of how much it would save were the Seanad abolished, much talk about the Seanad holding politicians to account, and the claim that it’s the Dail that needs reforming, not abolition of the Seanad.
Simon Coveney, a Fine Gael minister was on RTE the other day talking about the need to get rid of the Seanad. Mary O’Rourke of Fianna Fail was on the same programme making the case for its retention.
The main argument against an upper House (as in England) is that the people in it are not democratically elected. For example, I’m a graduate of the National University of Ireland and so am entitled to a vote that’d send three senators to the Seanad. If I’d been a graduate of Trinity College I’d have been allowed to vote for their three Senators. In other words, people who’ve been to university are seen as being somehow more suitable for voting candidates into the Seanad than the great unwashed non-graduate population. Once you start drawing those kinds of distinction, you’re waving goodbye to any real respect for equality.
The main argument in favour of retaining the Seanad is that it provides a check on the elected representatives in the Dail, that there’s a degree of expertise in the Seanad that can curb the wildness and possible ignorance of the Dail. The answer to which, of course, is that those elected to the Dail should be informed and un-wild – they shouldn’t need another body to remind them to act responsibly.
And did I mention that each Senator gets paid at last count €65,000? You’d need to be giving some very wise advice to make that kind of money well-earned.
But actually, my own distaste for the Seanad is not that it’s undemocratically elected, not that they get paid too much, but that it’s duplication. Having elected TDs to the Dail, the Irish people should tell them to get on with it, not pay grateful attention to an unrepresentative bunch of overpaid layabouts shovelling fistfuls of money into their pockets, while the rest of the state’s population is struggling to keep body and soul together.
I agree with your points regarding how Seanad Éireann is elected. I believe that reform is necessary but by abolishing it completely are we not removing an important part of the Oireachtas.
Essentially it is a check and balance on the Dail. I am yet to hear anyone produce a coherent alternative idea but I do think it is important to have an independent, although representative, body scrutinising legislation.
Is the Supreme Court job not to hold government to account ? Why need the Seanad ? Even if it is reformed to allow the ‘unwashed’ a vote, at best, it’s a needless duplication of an already bloated Dáil Éireann.
A rare occasion when you and Enda Kenny agree on something !
Many Parties and their leaders suffer badly from ‘Champaign socialism’.
Most parties North and South are right-wing; all their policies are right-wing. All their friends in Washington, New York and London are right-wing. They are Kitson’s fondest hope from the seventies. The ones shouting the loudest about ‘elitism’ are the most elitist and the most right-wing.
You know an elitist because:
1) Their party is run by an ‘elite few’. The rest blindly follow.
2) No transparency of donations. No transparency of foundations, charities and private individuals supplying hospitality and private gifts to those ‘elite few’.
3) They use terms like ‘average industrial wages’ as a shield while using money from foundations, charities and private individuals to fund their political ambitions and private lives.
4) Because a lot of funding and hospitality happens under the radar they avoid telling us what those foundations, charities and private individuals expect for their money. If the cops caught an ordinary citizen handing over ten grand in a back alley somewhere to an attractive young lady or gentleman they might rightly assume that citizen was attempting to procure something, what are those handing over money to parties and elite politicians trying to procure?
5) They talk about ‘corruption’ and ‘golden circles’ while eating fancy dinners with a cabal of stock brokers, bankers and philanthropists, the kind of people who suck entire countries dry while paying no taxes. They move their money out of taxable jurisdictions and then expect us to believe their philanthropy comes with no strings attached.
So I do have a problem with Seanad composition, but I am seriously suspicious when anyone so deeply connected to a cabal of stock brokers, bankers and philanthropists tries to remove scrutiny from a political system. Still they might be sincere; there has to be a first time for everything!