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New Bill would give Seanad vote to all citizens - including emigrants

Professor John Crown’s Seanad Electoral Reform Bill will be debated by Senators this Wednesday evening.

NUI senator Prof John Crown has compiled a Bill allowing all citizens - including emigrants - the right to vote in Seanad elections.
NUI senator Prof John Crown has compiled a Bill allowing all citizens - including emigrants - the right to vote in Seanad elections.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

LEGISLATION WHICH would extend voting rights in Seanad elections to all Irish citizens over 18 – including those living abroad – will be debated in the Seanad this week.

The Seanad Electoral Reform Bill 2013, which has been compiled by Prof John Crown, would offer the most dramatic reform of the chamber and the method of its election in the history of the State.

The Bill would provide that the Seanad be dissolved at the same time as the Dáil, and ensuring that a person who is running for election to either house cannot run for election to the other at the same time.

This would end the practice where many Seanad candidates have already contested the general election, but failed to win election to the Dáil.

While the constitution demands that the Seanad be elected through a postal vote – meaning polling would not be carried out in polling stations, but by post over a number of weeks – the Bill also allows Irish expatriates to register for a vote at their local embassy or consulate.

The legislation would also dramatically reform the five vocational panels through which members are nominated. Currently, nominations to these five panels – which are defined in the constitution, and cannot be changed without a referendum – is done only by lobby groups and unions associated with each vocation.

The Bill proposes to change this so that any member of the public could nominate themselves to run on any panel, which would have a roughly equal number of seats (eight or nine as needed).

It also extends voting rights for the university panels – which are currently elected only by graduates of Trinity College or the four NUI universities – to graduates of the other universities, DCU and the University of Limerick, and to the graduates of Institutes of Technology.

The legislation would also end the practice of Seanad by-elections – in which only TDs and existing Senators can vote – by ‘promoting’ the closest unsuccessful candidate to the seat.

The Bill will be debated by the Seanad this Wednesday evening, with a vote due at 7pm.

In numbers: How much would we save by abolishing the Seanad?

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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