Who would you trust with post Seanad Oireacthas?

Part of the credibility problem for the government on the topic of Seanad Abolition is that we’re supposed to  believe the Dáil will magically start to do a job it hasn’t really bothered to do to date. That being to act as a check on the power of the executive and as the quality control department for government legislation.

Mmmm....cake.  And government info.

Mmmm....cake. And government info. (Photo credit: emkeller)

Amongst the arguments being out forward by the government in abolishing the Seanad is that (a) it’s never blocked government legislation and (b) new Dáil Committees will do the same job of scrutinising legislation.

True enough the Seanad hasn’t blocked much if any government legislation but there again with an inbuilt majority for government of the day by way of the Taoiseach’s nominee it was never intended to. It’s similar to complaining that your donkey didn’t bark and keep away the burglars or that the goose isn’t a very good mouser. Blocking government legislation is not the job of the Seanad, checking it, kicking the tires and making amendments to ensure the legislation is a good as it can be is part of it’s job.

And how many times has the Dáil blocked government legislation in the past 70 years? Not very often as I recall, so should we abolish the Dáil too?

Given the recent dismissal by the main government party of those members who voted against a government proposal from those same wondrous Dáil Committees how many members are likely to be overly diligent in their analysis and critiques of government sponsored legislation? I would very much like to see the current Seanad gone, but gone as a part of a whole, not as the scapegoat for the entire political class and process that was too scared to tell the electorate to its face that property booms don’t go on forever and that increased current expenditure based transient transaction taxes is compounding the problem.

Seanad Abolition is to a recipe for Political Reform what breaking an egg is to making a cake. You have to make sure that you do the other bits too, otherwise you’ve just wasted a few eggs and made a mess that someone else will have to tidy up later.

When members of the Dáil/government complain about failure of Seanad to reform it is much the same as someone much stronger hitting you with your own hand and then asking your why you don’t stop. It was the executive and the Dáil that never passed any legislation to reform the Seanad or much else in the electoral system for that matter. If the Seanad had had the power to reform itself it would equally have had the power to save itself. It doesn’t so it didn’t.

Some have said the Seanad is like the criminal in the dock, “I promise I’ll reform your honour” “but Johnny it says here you said that 11 times before but didn’t” yet in truth it has more in common with a parole board complaining that a prisoner still hasn’t learned to read while the prison system has kept them in solitary, not provided them with any books or access to a teacher.

By all means that’s get rid of the current Seanad and the current Dail and replace with an Oireachtas and electoral system that’s going to do the job we need it to do. But abolishing the Seanad on the promise that some tinkering might be done with the Dail later on (honestly guv’nor it will)  is wasting the opportunity we have before us.

And ask yourself this if you’re a supporter of either of the government parties and inclined to Vote Yes because you trust the government of the day. How would you feel if these same proposals were coming from government made up of other parties? How safe would you feel our democracy was in the hands of a SF/FF government given to guillotining legislation? If your answer is not very, then the proposal is clearly a bad one.

It is a political truism as yet uncoined that you should never give to an office or institution occupied by a good people powers that could be open to abuse by someone else.

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