Why the Seanad needs to go

In the Seanad referendum on Friday, the Irish people are being offered a choice that past generations were deprived of by Irish governments — the choice to vote yes to abolish the current undemocratic and elitist Seanad, or to keep it.

I have decided to vote yes in favour of abolition for the following reasons.

Abolishing the Seanad will enshrine the concept of meritocracy into Irish politics like never before; it will mean that for the first time in Ireland, all serving politicians in the State will be democratically elected by ordinary citizens at the ballot box. This should also increase levels of accountability in Irish politics.

In its entire history, the Seanad has only twice blocked a bill. The last time this happened was in 1964. What’s been the point of maintaining the Seanad since then?

Abolishing the Seanad will increase the turnover of politicians in this country, as the safe haven and cash cow for failed politicians and well-connected party candidates will no longer exist.

The Seanad creates a culture of entitlement for a favoured elite. For example, the misuse of taxpayer-funded envelopes to send personal mail to constituents.

One senator recently sent out hundreds of invites to Fianna Fáil party members at the taxpayer’s expense to an event in his home town.

I believe this lack of respect for the Irish taxpayer is typical of some senators and this is a symptom of the behavioural culture prevalent in this anti-democratic and elitist Seanad. By abolishing the Seanad, we abolish this despicable culture of entitlement.

Senators frequently dispense arrogance and misinformed personal opinions masked as expertise. We saw this recently with some Fianna Fáil senators disgracing themselves by making outrageously inaccurate statements during the Seanad debate on the much-needed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013.

If we abolish the Seanad, this will ensure that only politicians with sufficient public support at the ballot box will see high public office.

The Seanad is an elitist institution that is toxic to democracy. Its composition invariably discriminates against the working class. Serving Senator Professor John Crown stated on Mar 3 of this year in an article that ‘the current Seanad is an affront to democracy.’

Why should we save an institution which one of its own members describes as ‘an affront to democracy’?

The voting system used by the Seanad virtually excludes all small parties from having members elected, unless they get installed as Taoiseach’s nominees.

Abolishing the Seanad would end such discrimination against small Irish political parties.

Fianna Fáil is the only party in Dáil Eireann calling for a ‘no’ vote, in an effort to maintain the political status quo, which benefits them.

If the yes vote wins the day, this will highlight the hypocrisy of Micheál Martin’s leadership of Fianna Fáil. Martin promised in Fianna Fáil’s last general election manifesto to abolish the Seanad. Now that he sees the opportunity for political advantage, he abandons all principles.

Derek O’Flynn


Co Cork

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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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