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The government won't be doing any Seanad reform after all

Proposals to expand the electorate will not be implemented before the election.

The Seanad chamber
The Seanad chamber
Image: Laura Hutton/

THE TAOISEACH HAS said that plans to expand voting rights in Seanad elections to all third-level graduates in Ireland will not be implemented before the next election.

His comments come two years after the government first proposed to expand the electorate for six of the 60 Seanad seats from the current 151,000 to as many as 800,000 people following the defeat of the referendum to abolish the Seanad in 2013.

However speaking in the Dáil this morning Kenny said he did not think the long-planned reform, which would ratify a 1979 referendum result, would be introduced in time for the next Seanad election, which will follow the general election next spring. 

In response to questions from Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea, Kenny said: “The government made its decision to approve that.

To be honest with you I cannot see it being implemented before the next election in respect of the Senate.

The reform would have opened up the electorate for the Seanad to an estimated 800,000 people. At present only graduates of Trinity and the National Universities of Ireland are eligible to vote for six seats.

In 1979, a referendum to expand the electorate to all third-level graduates was passed but never legislated for. In November 2013, following the defeat of the referendum to abolish the upper house, the government agreed plans to legislate for the creation of one, six-seat constituency known as the “Institutes of Higher Education”.

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All holders of degrees or equivalent qualifications from Irish universties, Institutes of Technology, private colleges and bodies such as the Royal College of Surgeons would be eligible to vote.

Draft legislation to implement the reform was published in Febraury 2014 by then Environment Minister Phil Hogan who said at the time that the expansion of the electorate was long overdue.

“Implementation of this constitutional provision could have been done at any point since 1979,” he said at the time.

The Government is now taking action to implement the will of the people.

INFOGRAPHIC: Look at how incredibly complicated it is to elect Senators…

Read: Check out these VERY radical proposals to reform the Seanad

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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