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Seanad Referendum should be cancelled and matter referred to Constitutional Convention

15 May, 2013 - by David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin Senator David Cullinane has welcomed the government’s decision not to oppose the Seanad Reform Bill 2013. He has called on the government to follow the logic of this decision, to cancel the referendum, and refer the matter to the Constitutional Convention.

The legislation, which was proposed by Senators Fearghal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, is intended to open up the Seanad to universal franchise and reform its functions.

Speaking today from Leinster House, Senator Cullinane said;

“I welcome the government’s decision to support the Seanad Reform Bill today. It creates an opportunity to further debate and consideration of this issue.

“The government’s entire approach to the future of the Seanad has been opportunistic and ill thought out. Sinn Féin believes that the Seanad as currently constituted is deeply undemocratic and elitist.

“However, simple abolition, without even allowing the opportunity to discuss considering reform is foolhardy.

“We have continually argued that the question of the future of the Seanad needs to be referred to the constitutional convention.

“This should have been done from the outset, but it is not yet too late, and there are two open remit sessions left at the end of the convention which can consider the question. This is the appropriate place to consider whether we need a second chamber, what is the purpose of a second chamber, and what role could a second chamber usefully fulfil.

“It is interesting that the government was concerned by the possibility that a number of its Senators might break the whip on this matter. It is to be regretted that it is on an issue of self-interest, and their own self-preservation, that they were considering it, rather than on cuts to child benefit, the Budget or the Family Home tax or any other issue which affected ordinary people.”

Senator Cullinane also highlighted the fact that the Seanad was currently being left effectively idle, due to a lack of government legislation.

“The leader of the Seanad, Senator Maurice Cummins yesterday indicated that the office of the Attorney General was struggling due to lack of resources.

“Senator Cummins told the Seanad that there had been considerable pressure on the office in recent times and that there has been a knock-on effect in the drafting of legislation. If there is no Bill ready, I cannot bring it before the House.

“If there is a resource issue in the Attorney General’s office then that needs to be resolved. There is no end of areas where there is a need for legislation, including in reforming direct provision, legislating for collective bargaining, and reform of Employment Rights bodies.

“It is unacceptable that the Seanad would be left effectively idle, due to a lack of resources in the Attorney General’s office when there are such significant issues to deal with.”


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