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Adams calls for radical Seanad reform

16 October, 2014 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams TD has called for radical reform of the Seanad in order to ensure that the Seanad functions effectively as a second chamber.

Speaking in the Dáil today Mr Adams said:

“Following the referendum on the Seanad, the Taoiseach and the Government committed to reforming the political system and to ensuring that the Seanad was a modern and effective second chamber.

“However the Taoiseach has done absolutely nothing whatsoever to achieve this. This was most recently and notoriously evidenced by the Taoiseach’s direct involvement in the John McNulty affair, and Mr McNulty’s nomination to the board of IMMA. This illustrates the Government’s lack of respect for that institution and its disregard for the Arts.”

Mr Adams said that the Seanad in its current form is elitist, undemocratic and unacceptable as an institution of State.

He said:

“Any democratic state that would limit the franchise to people who have a third level degree cannot in all seriousness consider itself modern or democratic. There is no place in a 21st century democracy for such nonsense. Deciding who can vote on the basis of educational attainment is blatant elitism.

“Sinn Féin believes in one person, one vote and universal franchise. We need a properly reformed Seanad, one that is democratic, accountable and egalitarian and that works in the best interests of good governance.”

Mr Adams said the Seanad had become synonymous with cronyism and corruption:

“Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have used the system of political nominees to reward close political allies. The Seanad has also been used as a form of safety net for those who failed to get elected to the Dáil.

“Fianna Fáil has stood down Senators just weeks out from a General election to replace them with cronies for a just few weeks. The point of this was to secure for them entitlements such as lifelong parking in Leinster House!

“While the Seanad has opposed the Government on occasions, and some Senators have been pioneers of advocacy, at no point has the Seanad acted as a real check on the actions of this or any other Government.”

“Since Fine Gael and Labour came to power three-and-a-half years ago, the Seanad has supported the Government on almost every occasion. This has included on the introduction of the Property Tax and Water Charges.

“Fianna Fáil campaigned for the retention of the Seanad, but in his 14 years in the Fianna Fáil government neither Micheál Martin nor anyone else in that government made any effort to reform the Seanad.

“Despite numerous claims over the decades by all of the establishment parties – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, that they would reform the Seanad, none ever did.”

“Sinn Féin proposals for real and genuine Seanad reform include:

“An engagement with all parties and groups within the Oireachtas, but also broader civic society, to consider how best to reform the Seanad to ensure that it becomes a fully inclusive, representative and accountable institution.

“The introduction of direct election by way of universal franchise of all Irish citizens.

“The introduction of Northern representation and representation of the Diaspora.

“The introduction of 50 per cent women members.

“Measures to ensure representation of marginalised and minority groups within Irish society.”

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