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To have an uncontested by-election is utterly and grossly undemocratic

Prior to the recent referendum on the abolition of the Seanad, we had senators jumping up and down pleading to the electorate for the retention of that chamber. 

In that debate it was generally acknowledged that the institution needed urgent reform but it’s abolition would be a retrograde step and a deficit to democracy. In their fear of the electorate supporting the Taoiseach’s proposed abolition option, Senators Zapone and Quinn amongst others put forward suggestions of Seanad reform.

The Irish electorate voted by a comfortable majority to retain the Seanad. In doing so, people expected that reform would be enacted during the term of the current Seanad. We are three years on from that referendum and it appears that senators have settled back into their comfort zone of reneging on any proposed reform of the institution.

It feels like two fingers to the electorate once again. Do these people have any principles or even a modicum of common decency? They plead for our vote and proceed to ignore us once it is given. Trust is broken!

Since the referendum, we had the McNulty debacle, where the Taoiseach created an additional seat on the Cultural Panel. In the ensuing mess, Gerrard Craughwell was nominated and ‘elected’ to the new seat unopposed. It is an affront to democracy to allow a farcical situation whereby a seat of power in our highest parliamentary institution be filled uncontested. Once more I fear that the democratic process in that esteemed institution is about to be undermined.

The vacancy on the Industrial and Commercial Panel brought about by Labour Senator Harte’s resignation necessitates a by-election for that seat. As we know, Maria Cahill has been nominated and is still to be ratified by the Labour party. No other candidate has been nominated. From soundings in political circles and observing media speculation it appears that political parties are treating the upcoming by-election as a “Labour vacancy”, implying an uncontested election of the Labour candidate. If this is not unconstitutional, it certainly is undermining the democratic process of electoral system to the second highest house in the land.

To have a arrangement among political parties not to contest a by-election, but allow the seat to transfer to the party of the outgoing office holder is a abuse of democracy. For a second uncontested seat to be in such a way suggests that the electorate made a grave mistake in retaining this most undemocratic institution.

John O’Callaghan

Hilltown Park



Co Dublin


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