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First meeting for possibly the last ever Seanad

The 24th Seanad convenes for the first time today, amid government plans to scrap the upper house of the Oireachtas for good.

A public notice detailing candidates in April's Seanad Elections is shown at Leinster House.
A public notice detailing candidates in April's Seanad Elections is shown at Leinster House.
Image: justinpickard via Flickr

THE 24TH SEANAD will convene for the first time this afternoon, beginning what may possibly be its last ever session.

The 49 elected members and 11 Taoiseach’s nominees will convene in the Seanad chamber, formerly the ballroom of the Duke of Leinster, at 2:30pm to elect a new Cathaoirleach.

It is widely assumed that Fine Gael’s Seanad stalwart and outgoing Leas-Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke will be nominated to the position, which carries the same pay grade as those of junior ministers and a seat on the Presidential Commission.

In accordance with usual custom, the Leas-Cathaoirleach is likely to come from the opposition side, with Fianna Fáil’s Denis O’Donovan set for the position, though his nomination will not be confirmed today.

Today’s meeting will be the last time that a new Seanad will convene, if the Fine Gael-Labour coalition government pursues its plans to abolish the Seanad and turn the Oireachtas into a single-chamber institution.

The parties’ Programme for Government committed to bringing a referendum on scrapping the Seanad as an “urgent measure”, while Fianna Fáil has also indicated its tentative support for the plan if other reform measures are also enacted.

The matter of whether the new Senators will be allowed to complete their term of office – retaining their positions until the next time a Dáil general election is called – would depend on the wording of the referendum brought to the public.

Previous incarnations of the Seanad have been abolished before – most recently in 1936, when the Seanad of the Irish Free State was abolished after it delayed some of the government’s proposals for changing the constitution.

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Gavan Reilly

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