A NUMBER OF individuals from across Irish society have banded together in an attempt to save the Seanad.
Democracy Matters! is calling for a “radical reform” of the second house of the Oireachtas – not its abolition. A referendum on whether to keep or get rid of the parliamentary chamber is due to take place later this year.
The group, which launched its campaign this morning, argues for a strong Senate with new powers to “ensure we learn from the mistakes of a failed political system”.
According to the campaign, a broken system of government and governance has failed Ireland. It has also “exacerbated the economic crisis, dramatically increased social welfare queues and hit hard pressed taxpayers and pensioners in their pockets”.
“Abolition only strengthens the old political system, which has already failed us. It will silence dissenting voices, limit debate and give the government even more power to ram through legislation,” said Professor Gary Murphy, who chairs the group. “Abolition is not reform and true parliamentary reform in both the Seanad and the House is what Ireland needs today.”
Diarmaid Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin, added: “A radically new type of Seanad could make a serious and meaningful contribution to the process of reforming and modernising an Irish political culture that is excessively centralised, closed and distrusted. Abolishing the Seanad instead of reforming it will just further erode democracy and copper fasten the interests and power of a tiny elite.”
Members of the campaign steering group include John Dolan, Suzanne Egan, Michael McDowell, Joe O’Toole, Feargal Quinn, Noel Whelan and Katherine Zappone. The organisation says it has no affiliation to any political party.
Last month, Quinn and Zappone launched a Bill which would mark the biggest reform of the Seanad in modern history. The proposals would also require the Seanad to retain a gender balance by ensuring that an equal number of men and women were elected from each of the five vocational panels – which are required to be retained under the current constitution.
The legislation would impose a pay cut of nearly €20,000 for Seanad members – defining their pay as being half of that for a TD. This would mean the current wage of over €65,000 would fall to €46,336.