Thursday, June 06, 2013

Abolish the Seanad? No thank you.

In terms of politics threatening to get out of control, this is one situation where that could easily happen.  Enda Kenny, The Taoiseach, announced that he was bringing forward a bill to abolish the Seanad Eireann, the upper chamber of the Irish Parliament, the Oirechtas.

Unlike here in the UK, where the upper house, The House of Lords, is an unelected body, appointed by the Prime Minister via the system of honours bestowed by The Queen, The Seanad Eireann is made up of 60 members.  11 of these are directly appointed by the Taoiseach.  3 are elected by graduates of the University of Dublin, 3 are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland, and the remaining 43 are elected from 5 special panels called Vocational Panels, made up of TDs, Senators and councillors.

Yeah, it's a little complicated, and that's one of the aspects of the Seanad Eireann that needs reform.  The Seanad should be directly elected, just like the US Senate is.  Further more, let's keep it simple.  Two Senators elected from each county in the Republic of Ireland, 26 counties, 52 Senators in all. 

That's just one aspect of the Seanad that needs reform, there are many others too.  Nobody thinks the Seanad can survive as it currently is.  But I believe Enda Kenny is wrong to call for the abolition of the second chamber.  In parliamentary democracies, the upper chamber is always the modifier, the body that curbs the excesses of the lower house.  With no upper house, there is no body to oversee the lower house and curb it's excesses.  That is why that abolishing the Seanad is wrong, no matter what additional measures you might put in.  The upper chamber must be there to give legislation a more considered opinion, than the lower house can.  That's what it should be doing, and that is why I would recommend everybody in Ireland to vote against any move to abolish the upper chamber.

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