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The Seanad chamber will be empty for most of this week Wikimedia Commons via Wikipedia
What reform?

Senator admits his two-day week 'gives the impression the Seanad is full of dossers'

Earlier, the Taoiseach promised that senators will get more work once legislation to give all third-level graduates a vote in Seanad elections is passed. The upper house is sitting for just a day-and-a-half this week.

Updated 6.42pm

GOVERNMENT SENATORS HAVE criticised the coalition and insisted they are not blame for the upper house sitting for less than two days this week.

Senators convened for the first time this week earlier this afternoon, but will adjourn for the week tomorrow evening with only one piece of legislation – the Road Traffic Bill – due to be debated this week.

It’s the third time since last year’s referendum to abolish the Seanad that the chamber has sat for just two days and this evening Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane claimed he and his colleagues have been informed that this may continue in the weeks ahead.

“This is an absolute disgrace and gives the impression the Seanad is full of dossers who show up now and then,” he said, adding the situation “is outrageous” and that he knows of no other job “where people can show up for work for two day (sic) and still receive their full pay.”

Earlier, Labour senators John Kelly, John Whelan and Denis Landy hit out at the government for, in their view, ignoring the result of last October’s referendum in failing to bring sufficient business before the upper house.

Landy said the current situation is not acceptable and that it is up to the government and particularly the chief whip to “take action to stop this ridiculous scenario”.

‘Spirit of reform’

Whelan said that the two-day sitting is “entirely at odds with the spirit of reform” and added: “It appears that some elements within Government have not fully accepted or embraced the will of the people in that referendum result.

“The Seanad cannot put in place even three sitting days as normal this week as there is no legislation forthcoming from the Dáil or any Ministers available to take debates on policy, pending legislation or important public consultations.”

His concerns are shared by Kelly who said said the Seanad is being “under-utilised by our archaic political process” and warned that the lack of legislative business now means that bills will be rushed through when the current term is coming to an end.

“To not have legislation lined up for the Seanad, just three weeks after our Christmas recess, inevitably means that come Easter we will again have four-day sittings, late-night sittings, guillotining, and the return of the béte noire of Irish politics, ‘rushed legislation’,” he said.

Barrister and political commentator Noel Whelan, a member of the Democracy Matters group which advocates reform of the chamber, said that the fault for the lack of legislative business before the Seanad falls to the government.

“The government hasn’t introduced one procedural change since the referendum. It’s a classic tactic of running the clock down in the hope that people forget about reform by the time of the next election,” he said.

Taoiseach promises changes

The Seanad began its week with its usual Order of Business at 2.30pm when senators raise anything and everything, before Justice Minister Alan Shatter heard statements on the charities sector prior to Matters on the Adjournment.

Tomorrow a full day’s work includes statements on EU Affairs, a motion regarding changes to standing orders ahead of the forthcoming banking inquiry, and consideration of the Road Traffic Bill.

Labour senators have a private members motion on homelessness before Social Protection Minister Joan Burton hears statements on the implementation of the Youth Guarantee. After Matters on the Adjournment the Seanad adjourns for the week and will not return until next Tuesday.

Speaking in the Dáil earlier, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he would bring legislative proposals to give the right to vote in Seanad elections to all third-level graduates to Cabinet next week and promised that “we are certainly going to increase work rate” of senators.

“I see a full week’s programme here for the Seanad not once in a blue moon, but once every week,” he insisted.

The government chief whip could not immediately be reached for comment this afternoon.

First published 2.09pm

November 2013: The Seanad sat for just two days this week… again

October 2013: The Seanad sat for just two days this week

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