Micheál Martin: ‘Tinkering around edges of reform’.

Seanad reform pledge an ‘act of window dressing’

The Government has been accused of wasting the opportunity to reform the Seanad in light of a rejection by voters of its plans to abolish the Upper House.

Professor Gary Murphy, chairman of the Democracy Matters group — which campaigned to keep the Seanad — criticised plans to reform it as a “supreme act of window dressing”.

The changes have also been strongly criticised by Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who said that the Government is “tinkering around the edges” of political reform.

The changes will come into effect in October and will “ensure a more efficient and effective” Seanad and “increasing output” Fine Gael leader in the Upper House, Maurice Cummins said. Under what he described as “major reforms” the Seanad will:

nOutline legislative priorities for the year ahead in the same way as the Dáil does;

nReview reports of Oireachtas committees and make recommendations to relevant ministers;

nReview the work of the North South Ministerial Council and the British- Irish Council.

nAllow senators to raise matters they want to have debated earlier in the day to create a “more effective use of time”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny vowed to reform the Upper House after voters rejected his plan to abolish it in a referendum last October.

“I am up for engaging with the leaders in the Dáil and the Seanad and we will see what is the best way of putting in place a process that will lead to a more effective Seanad,” he said in the aftermath of the result.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Prof Murphy said the Government’s response to the vote has been an “opportunity wasted”.

Mr Martin said that last October, the Taoiseach had acknowledged that he had misjudged the referendum.

“But instead of recognising the opportunity to do something radical and bold he has reverted to the same process of window-dressing and spin that has characterised his Government’s entire approach to political reform,” he said.

The central criticism of the Seanad, he said, is the way members are elected, and the Government has failed to address that.


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