New group to review 2015 Seanad reform plan

Three-year-old plans to reform the Seanad by allowing all citizens to vote on who should be elected are set to be examined by a 26-person political committee amid fresh claims the changes are being deliberately delayed.

A Government spokesperson confirmed last night that the findings of the 2015 Manning report and the proposed legislation it provided will be reviewed until October by a new group made up of TDs and senators.

The report was based on the work of an independent working group on Seanad reform that was established in December 2014.

It was chaired by former senator Maurice Manning and released its findings in 2015, which included the key recommendation that all citizens should be allowed to vote on who should be elected to the Seanad.

The recommendation was supported by the then Fine Gael-Labour government, was included in the Fine Gael-Independents programme for government in May 2016 and has since been backed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

However, despite the repeated support, a senior Government spokesperson said last night Cabinet has agreed to set up a 26-person committee to examine the Manning report’s recommendations.

The group is expected to be mainly made up of existing TDs and senators nominated by political parties, and will not conclude its work until October.

While it has been suggested that the 2015 report and its subsequent legislation still needed examination, news of the new group is likely to lead to fresh claims that Seanad reform is being delayed.

Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics last Sunday, Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee said “there is no reason why reform can’t happen before the next general election”, while Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway Walsh said there has been “a lot of nonsense” on the issue from Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Meanwhile, at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting Communications Minister Denis Naughten received clearance to publish the An Post annual report, which will give further financial clarity on the firm and explain whether more rural post office closures will take place.

Cabinet was also told of President Michael D Higgins’s visit to the UN’s New York headquarters next week, while Disabilities Minister Finian McGrath sought an update on the Syrian crisis from Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.

Ministers agreed not to oppose a Solidarity-People Before Profit bill due to be discussed in the Dáil tonight on sex education reform in Irish schools.

However, they said they will oppose Sinn Féin’s extreme weather bill as its plan to force the short-term closure of companies during red alert weather events is not workable, as not all events can be predicted.

As revealed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also confirmed the Government’s Magdalene laundries redress scheme on foot of recommendations from Ombudsman Peter Tyndall.

The changes mean that an independent senior counsel will decide on claims involving a dispute over the length of stay in an institution, and the establishment of a new inter-departmental group in the coming days to confirm who is now eligible for compensation.



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