Seanad reform moves debated

Moves to reform the Seanad may finally pick up pace with its members yesterday debating Senator Michael McDowell’s bill that would see half the house directly elected.

The Seanad Bill as proposed would see voting in Seanad elections extended to everyone with an Irish passport, including those in Northern Ireland and the diaspora living overseas.

The Government, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have all stated they will support the bill and Mr McDowell added that he had received the “personal endorsement of the Taoiseach” in bringing the bill forward.

Mr McDowell said voters would be emailed their ballot paper, which they would then print off, fill in, and post to a designated returning officer to vote under his bill.

Yesterday in the Government’s cabinet meeting, a consensus was reached that they would “agree not to oppose” the bill to extend the voting franchise of the Seanad. The bill, it was agreed, “had a lot of good in it” said a government spokesperson. But it is believed the electronic element of emailing ballot papers and the cost of directly electing half of the Seanad would need to be considered further by the Government.

Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly said his party “welcomed the bill” and would be voting in favour of it, but would look to discuss amending it in part at committee stage.

Several senators such as Sinn Féin’s Rose Conway-Walsh spoke to say the Seanad should no longer be viewed as a political “creche or a nursing home”, and that reform was badly needed to make the chamber relevant to the public.

The other half of the Seanad would be made up of 13 seats elected by county councillors, six elected by college graduates, and the Taoiseach would still hold onto his discretionary 11 Seanad nominations.


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