Sunday, 6 October 2013

Irish vote to keep Seanad Éireann

Ireland voted to retain its upper house of parliament on Saturday, rejecting Taoiseach  Enda Kenny's call to scrap a chamber where the likes of William Butler Yeats once sat but the government saw as redundant.
In a campaign backed by some of the opposition and not seen as a chance to punish the government for austerity policies imposed as part of an EU/IMF bailout,

The Fine Gael Labour coalition government proposal was supported by Sinn Féin and was lost by a narrow margin, with 48.3% voting in favour of abolition, with 51.7% against.
Total turnout in the election was higher than expected at nearly 40%.
With his party still in front in most opinion polls at the midway point of a five-year term, analysts said there would be no immediate damage for the prime minister as the country prepares to complete its bailout later this year.

Kenny had argued that the 75-year-old institution was elitist, undemocratic and promised its abolition would save money. Advocates for the senate, including the main opposition party Fianna Fail, accused the government of a power grab.

The 60 members of the senate only have limited powers such as temporarily delaying legislation.  But during the campaign Kenny's Fine Gael party said the last time it did so was in 1964.
Eleven appointed by the Taoiseach (prime minister).

  • Three by graduates of the University of Dublin.
  • Three by graduates of the National University of Ireland.
  • 43 elected from five special panels of nominees (known as Vocational Panels) by an electorate consisting of TDs (member of Dáil Éireann), senators and local councillors. Nomination is restrictive for the panel seats with only Oireachtas members and designated 'nominating bodies' entitled to nominate. Each of the five panels consists, in theory, of individuals possessing special knowledge of, or experience in, one of five specific fields. In practice the nominees are party members, often, though not always, failed or aspiring Dáil candidates:
  • Administrative Panel: Public administration and social services (including the voluntary sector).
  • Agricultural Panel: Agriculture and the fisheries.
  • Cultural and Educational Panel: Education, the arts, the Irish language and Irish culture and literature.
  • Industrial and Commercial Panel: Industry and commerce (including engineering and architecture).
  • Labour Panel: Labour (organised or otherwise).

Kenny, who surprised many of his colleagues when he first raised the idea of scrapping the senate while in opposition, was criticised for refusing to take part in television debates, just as he had been during the last election campaign

Taoiseach  Kenny  may be damaged but his Fine Gael Party still be ahead  in the opinion polls .But its it and its coalition partner partner Labour have slumped since the last election.

2011                                               2013

Fine Gael       36.1%                      27%
Labour           19.4%                      10%
Fianna Fáil    17.5 %                      23%
Sinn Fein        9.9 %                       17%
Others            11.4 %                      23%

As we consider the governance of Wales and whether in the future  as powers for the Assembly or future Welsh Parliament . We will need to consider  if we need a second chamber if only to prevent the constant referral to  to judicial review that is currently happening to bills passed by our assembly.

Most legislatures have a second chamber but that is no reason why we should follow suit but if we do serious consideration in how it is elected and how representable it is of the people of Wales should be carefully considerd.


Cibwr said...

Good pre legislative scrutiny and expert evidence to legislation committees can replace a second chamber but I am attracted to a second chamber. Question is what is its function, and how should it be composed? Federal systems recognise the constituent parts of the federation and while Wales would be a unitary state I would hope that it would be decentralised. I would like powerful regional authorities within Wales and if we have a second chamber I'd like to see them represented as part of its make up. I am attracted by the Irish functional constituencies too, especially if they represent voices that would otherwise not be heard. Slovenia has a second chamber that reflects this (though it is largely advisory). I think we need a debate, one thing we don't need is a second chamber made up of MPs from Westminster!

glynbeddau said...

I am mostly in agreement Cibwr . Though I think that the Irish system needs to be a but more diverse . I don;t see why graduates of any University should have preference.

Perhaps a system where people can register for an interest group can be devised. .

Anonymous said...

Glad the Irish voted to keep the Seanad. I think it's a good enough set-up, though, no doubt there's room to improve.

If I remember well, Adam Price wrote a constitution for an independent Wales about 12 years ago. I think he suggested Wales would have 1 house (like NZ). But I'm in favour or two houses if only because it does give an individual who could be intelligent and good but who would never win a seat or have power in the first chamber because they were in the 'wrong' party or were not a party apparrachic. A democracy needs to find a place for these people.

If (when!) we get a second chamber may I suggest it's located at the Old College in Aberystwyth! Great iconic building, outside Cardiff (but in a university town with a strong law dept etc) and in search of a purpose!


Cibwr said...

I would certainly exclude the university graduates representation, but I think there is room for functional constituencies representing science, the arts, both sides of industry etc.... get to register to vote for them would need work.

As for location I am afraid it would have to be with the National Assembly - I'd call the body the National Council - possibly using the old chamber?

Having said that I can see no reason why the rest of the apparatus of government has to be in Cardiff, the Supreme Court to Swansea maybe, the Rural Affairs department to Aberystwyth, Defense to Brecon etc....