I was rather stunned to read today that the Seanad is being recalled on foot of a motion put down by Senator Joe O’ Toole who is not seeking re-election. At a time when FF appear caught up in open civil war between the old guard and the relief cavalry unit commanded by Michael Martin the move appears more designed to afford sitting senators a platform that no one else contesting the election can match just at the point at which the electorate made up of cllrs and a minority portion of the states 3rd level graduates will be making up their minds about casting their votes.
I also happen to think that any coverage of its sitting might be in breach of the current legislative framework in regard to broadcasting time allocated during election campaigns, which I suspect was not in place the last time the Seanad was recalled in 1981. So we could end up with a sitting of a house of the Oireachtas which can’t be mentioned on the national airwaves, and what purpose will that serve?
During regular polling for the Dáil a news moratorium is observed, which I entirely accept would be wholly impractical to ask for given that polling for the 3rd level seats takes place over several weeks. Yet the least we could expect, in keeping with the spirit of allowing the voters some space and quiet reflection to get on with making their minds up, is that outgoing Senators would not be afforded the chance for political theatrics on the national airwaves and attention seeking grandstanding that no one else contesting the election is able to match. Is it just possible that the sitting senators are running scared of an electorate that is in the mood for revolution?
This recall comes on top of the ridiculous farce of Oireachtas postage being used by sitting Senators during the course of the campaign, of €100,000 of tax payers’ money being used for the mail out of individual leaflets instead of a single booklet containing a small reference to each candidate with the position in said booklet to be allocated by a public random draw.
I would agree that the piece of legislation that this recall is supposed to be about – that of ensuring that involuntary electric shock treatment for psychiatric patients is banned – is a worthwhile one but I can detect no sign that the incoming government was not going to revisit this at an early date. So the main purpose of the recall it seems to me is to afford sitting senators a chance to talk at length about the new program for government. In other words a taxpayer funded election broadcast to be chaired by the representatives of the previous administration while people are casting their ballots. We will even have the bizarre situation of Senators who were appointed by previous FF Taoisigh and who are now contesting the TCD and NUI panels speaking as never before.
More than anything else this recall does not show, as Senator O’Toole says it would that “the recall was to act as a reminder of why Seanad Éireann was there.” instead it shows why many people think it should done away with. If this is a stunt, then it is a pretty uncunning stunt in that it achieves exactly the opposite of what it is intended to achieve. It makes the Seanad look like an institution that is out of touch with the general population and undermines its legitimacy even more as if that were possible after the behaviour of of Senator Ivor Callely or Brian Cowen’s rush to appoint Daragh O’Brien to the Seanad when he had left other vacancies exist for months on end. That an intelligent man like Sen. Joe O’Toole would so misread how this will be perceived by the public shows just how isolating and deluding an environment it is.
If I didn’t know better I’d have suspected Phil Hogan was behind it all….hang on.