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Nine months after it was saved, the Seanad is finally being reformed

The proposals are intended to improve efficiency, but don’t address who can vote in Seanad elections.

File photo of the Seanad
File photo of the Seanad
Image: Oireachtas.ie

AFTER ALMOST BEING abolished in last year’s referendum, the Seanad is finally set to be reformed.

Fine Gael Seanad Leader Maurice Cummins today announced plans to “develop the role” of the Upper House, boosting its participation in North-South co-operation, and giving members a more prominent way to quiz government ministers on the issues of the day.

The reforms announced today don’t include any measures that would require an amendment to the Irish Constitution.

The changes should be in place by October 2014.

Among the primary reforms being proposed are the following:

  • replace Adjournment Debates with Commencement Debates, before the daily Order of Business in the Seanad. Would allow Senators to raise questions with ministers earlier in the day.
  • review the work of the North/South Ministerial Council and British-Irish Council
  • review Oireachtas committee reports and make recommendations to ministers
  • debate the European Commission’s annual work programme

In a statement this evening, Senator Cummins said the proposals were designed to make the Seanad “more efficient and effective”, and to improve “the way we do business.”

Following the appointment of Joan Burton as Tánaiste earlier this month, the government’s major, six-part Statement of Priorities included provisions to extend the Seanad electorate to all university graduates.

This followed a Cabinet agreement in November to implement the 1979 referendum result, creating a single six-seat Seanad constituency to be known as the “Institutes of Higher Education.”

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Back in March, Fianna Fáil proposed its own Seanad Reform Bill.

It included provisions for Irish citizens abroad to vote in Seanad debates, and to expand representation in the upper chamber to include previously under-represented groups such as Travellers and the elderly.

In October 2013, a government-backed referendum to abolish the Seanad was defeated by a margin of 51.7 to 48.3%

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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