Speaking in the Dáil this evening Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD called on the Government to include Seanad reform in the remit of the Constitutional Convention.
Deputy McDonald said:
“Sinn Féin has constructively engaged in the Government’s Constitutional Convention process over the last number of months. We have met with the Taoiseach and submitted detailed proposals. We believe the remit of the Convention as outlined in the Government’s resolution is too narrow. For the Convention to be a truly reforming tool it must have the broadest possible scope.
“Fine Gael and Labour promised to establish a process to ensure that our Constitution meets the challenges of the 21st century. Instead they have half-heartedly engaged in their own process for constitutional reform. There is little ambition or heart in the Government’s proposals.
“This Convention could and should be a significant platform for constitutional reform. There should be a myriad of issues to be debated – including Seanad reform. Instead of facilitating this debate the Government has embraced perceived populism over real reform.
“The Seanad is not working. It hasn’t worked for some time. Sinn Féin has advocated root and branch reform of the Seanad for over a decade. It is undemocratic. Its members are elected by an elite group with little or no regard to real representation of wider societal interests.
“A reformed Seanad could serve our democracy well and act as an important counter-balance to the political party-dominated Dáil. Ultimately of course this is for the people to decide.
“There is a place for a democratic second chamber in Irish politics but only if its representatives are elected by citizens, including those in the six counties and the Irish diaspora. It is astonishing for a Government that so regularly looks to the Irish diaspora to tackle its continued failure to energise the domestic economy denies the very same people such a basic right.
“The Seanad should be an elected forum for civic society – particularly for those sectors not adequately represented in the Dáil and more marginalised sections of our community.
“This is the kind of real reform the Convention could and should be debating.”