Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Seanad Reform

We've had quite a few reports in total on Seanad reform down the years since the Seanad was created by DeVelera as part of his 1937 Constitution. The most recent document looking at the issue is the Seanad Reform report published in 2004.

In fact as the report notes there are have been 11 previous reports on Seanad reform prior to this. That would tend to make any future proposal the unlucky 13th. It might be an idea to spare this next report a few problems by addressing what we can.

Naturally as UL graduate, I want the government to legislate to provide for the 7th amendment to the constitution and to extend voting rights to those graduates outside of TCD and the NUI. As a nation we haven't tend to go to the bother of amending the constitution willy nilly and when the proposal is passed by a margin of 9:1 you would expect that the state would have gotten around to acting sooner than now. As part of this we need to act to fix the registers for the third level seats and here's my suggestion how to do it.

Beyond that regarding the broader reform of the Seanad which are arguably more important but which will take more time and requires constitutional change. I believe that we should value and respect the intent of the original Seanad which is that it would represent sectoral interests and recognise that the role of the Seanad should not be to become the source of an alternative government.

It is very feasible to have 60 seats elected by all the population, choosing on the day of the election which panel they would wish to vote for and in turn which candidates on those panels. The actual panels on offer could be decided at the time of the census, with the number of seats for each panel being allocated in proportion to the number of votes cast on election day. The Seanad could be fixed term or elected on the same day as the Dail I see merits in both ideas.

There may be merit in the idea that we have provincial Seanad panels for the four provinces. The reformed third level seats in this scenario would form part of the educational panel. People would only be able to vote for one panel.

Such a system would also allow for Irish emigrants panel with a minimal seat of one senator open to those who have registered with their Irish embassy.

Regarding votes in the Dail for those overseas, I believe that we should look at some form of observed proxy voting from the embassies. In other types of elections the votes of those overseas can be merely added to the total once the elections is completed. In our form of PR, it would be necessary to have the completed ballot papers be present at the count centre at the time of the opening of the boxes.