// September 3rd, 2009 // No Comments » // Uncategorized
So FF came out with their Seanad Reform proposals last week, and while I do have a number of concerns with the FF proposals which I will deal with in due course I do welcome their eventual appearance after all this time. I’ve attempted to get a fuller picture
Firstly we have the proposal to replace the existing six seats for a single constituency with 3 seats and then 1 seat each for TCD/NUI/Others. This strikes me as being dangerously close to a resurrection of a desire for the first past the post electoral system in FF combined with the desire for an avoidance of a single 6 seat panel. Which seems to me more about ensuring the dominance of the election by the larger political parties or people with considerable wealth or celebrity? Senator Cassidy is concerned with who might get that 6th seat. Perhaps he is worried the London born son of Irish emigrants from Kerry who graduated from UL might sneak in. OK, he probably wouldn’t pick me out of a line up but I reckon the Greens won’t be too keen on the avoidance of a larger constituency which would tend to favour the inclusion of minority opinion.
Again it is beyond me why we are so keen on preserving the over representation for TCD. Don’t get me wrong I know some lovely people who went to TCD but I can’t see why the Others and NUI both of whom have 3 times the number of graduates have the same single seat as TCD. There is also the fact that while the electorates may be divided by educational institution the candidates cannot be under the constitution. If we’re going to have an elitist system can we not at least try and be as egalitarian as we can about it?
Another massive problem with the dual elections is that it increases the cost of the overall process. And that is a problem no one has addressed that I’m aware of: 4/500,000 people in a single constituency spread across the world, I’m not sure even India deals too frequently with constituencies of that size.
I believe the reference to the low turnouts is a cheap shot given that the register is poorly resourced both in its maintenance for the addresses of graduates and also the addition of new graduates each year. Combine this with the archaic nature of the register which means it is very difficult for graduates to find out if they are on it, or their correct details are on it as is the case for the regular electoral register, nor does there exist any form of supplementary register. And “Copies of the Seanad Éireann Electoral Register are available in the libraries of the various institutions within the NUI and the National Library. The register is also available for examination in the reception of NUI offices, 49 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.” Not exactly the same as it being in the local post office, library or Garda station I’m sure you’d agree.
I do wonder if he is just being deliberately awkward just to ensure the whole thing is delayed again because no one is likely to agree with this and the intention was to find a consensus. What next, a suggestion for the time-sharing of seats over the lifetime of the Oireachtas?
I could say lots but for the moment I will content myself with the fact that according to his entry on the FF website he is “Spokesperson on the Taoiseach and Northern Ireland.”
When you say Seanad Reform a good number of people tend to say, “we should do this or that with the rest of the Seanad” and I would agree with many of them.
Yet it’s like starting a discussion about building an extension when you’ve got money for paint and no planning permission. So by all means let us apply for planning permission for larger changes to the Seanad by means of a referendum but in the mean time while the paint is here, can we paint the rooms we have by extension the franchise to the 20% of the population that we could do it to.