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TDs will be forced to vote: should the Seanad be abolished or reformed?

Shane Ross has tabled an unusual motion – seeking a vote trying to delay Seanad abolition until reform is introduced first.

Shane Ross's motion will ask TDs to declare whether they want to give the Seanad a chance to reform itself, in advance of a plan to kill it off.
Shane Ross's motion will ask TDs to declare whether they want to give the Seanad a chance to reform itself, in advance of a plan to kill it off.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE DÁIL IS SET to vote next week on a motion which will ask government TDs whether they want to abolish the Seanad entirely, or whether they still want to consider reforming it first.

Independent TD and former Senator Shane Ross has tabled a motion, set to be voted on in the Dáil next Tuesday, which would put a roadblock on the Government’s plans for abolishing the Seanad until they first deal with plans reforming how it is elected.

If passed, Ross’s motion would deny the Dáil from holding even a single vote on whether to progress the Thirty-second Amendment to the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill.

The motion is an unusual parliamentary manoeuvre, designed to ask government TDs whether they are fully committed to abolishing the Seanad entirely, before entertaining proposals to overhaul the way in which Senators are appointed.

Alterative Bill would give votes to all Irish adults – including expatriates

Ross has proposed legislation identical to a Bill currently before the Seanad itself, tabled by Katherine Zappone and Feargal Quinn, which would extend voting rights in Seanad elections to all Irish citizens, including expatriates.

It would also enforce gender equality among the five ‘panels’ from which members are elected, extend graduate voting rights to all third level graduates, and allow the public to force items onto the Seanad’s agenda through a petition of 1,000 citizens.

Quinn and Zappone’s Bill made it past the first hurdle last month, when the Government decided not to contest a vote – amid suggestions that some Labour backbenchers would have sided with the opposition and forced it through anyway.

Because any meaningful Seanad reform would also need the approval of the Dáil, however, Ross has tabled the same legislation there, hoping to get the Bill onto the Dáil’s agenda.

Ross’s move is unlikely to be passed – but it will test the mettle of government backbenchers who have spoken out in favour of reforming the Seanad, giving it another chance to redeem itself, before it is killed off for good.

It may therefore force some anti-abolition backbenchers within Fine Gael and Labour to vote against party lines, and therefore see them lose the party whip before a more traditional vote on whether to progress the Bill into committee stage where the first amendments can be tabled.

Read: 52pc of voters would scrap Seanad, according to latest opinion poll

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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