Report of Working Group on Seanad Reform

Speaking in the Seanad during ‘Statements on the Report of the Working Group on Seanad Reform 2015’

I welcome the report and the great effort our distinguished colleagues have made in this regard. As pointed out, the key problem in our democracy, the fruits of which we have seen recently, is that we have too many elected representatives whose sole focus is on local rather than national issues. We do not have a good mechanism for ensuring there is expertise in the halls of power to enable the ship of State to sail through rocky waters when expertise and skill are needed.

Unfortunately, given that the working group’s hands were tied behind its back in terms of what it was allowed to do by the Taoiseach based on the brief given, the reforms, while a step in the right direction, are too small a step. I believe in unfiltered democracy. The principle should be that every representative in this House would be elected with the votes of every citizen, residents in the country, those who have been defined in the Bill I advanced and other Bills as having a claim to be called Irish but who do not live within the bounds of the Republic and passport holders who live abroad. Appropriate procedures should be put in place to ensure the system would not be abused. The Bill I advanced would have addressed all of these issues.

I do not worry about double voting by the same constituency. If people are voting in a local constituency for a local representative in one chamber and voting in a national election for a different set of representatives to deal with national issues, it is not double voting, rather it is acknowledging that there is duality, a well respected duality, in parliamentary democracy. While we may decry them, there are genuine local or parochial concerns that are no less important than national concerns. In my ideal world we would have a mechanism for advancing both sets of concerns.

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