Averil Highlights Need for Radical Seanad Reform

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Senator Power: I too would like to welcome the fact that the Taoiseach indicated over the weekend that he will bring forward legislation to extend the franchise in the Seanad university elections to all universities and third level institutions. That is a very welcome first step but much more has to be done. None of us can be under any illusion that the people voted in the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad for minor tinkering or just to fix the issue with the university seats. The people voted for real and significant reform of how this House is elected and how it does its business. Anything short of that will be a sop and an insult to the electorate.

I call on the Leader to ensure that this House plays a leading role in driving forward the momentum for reform of the Seanad. The Leader played a very strong role during the campaign which must have been politically and personally very difficult for him. He represented us all very well and in a very dignified way. It is essential for this House to ensure that the momentum for reform is pushed ahead. Anyone to whom I spoke during the campaign wanted to see one citizen, one vote. It is a positive move to extend the franchise to the other universities but how do we explain to people that somebody is entitled to a vote just because they have a higher standard of education? It is a step forward to extend the vote to colleges such as Dublin City University but it is a snub to everybody else. It is essential that this House push that process forward.

There are two Bills before the House, the Quinn-Zappone Bill and the Crown Bill. I would like to see those proceed. I am very concerned about the messages coming from the Taoiseach and other Ministers over the course of the past week because they seem to see the university seats as the only focus for major change and to think that everything else should be kicked into touch. That is not necessary. We can change the electoral system by legislation and we can do that straightaway. I hope that, rather than rest on our laurels, we will respond to the real message that came from people during the course of the referendum campaign. Let this House be the one that drives forward the real reform.

 

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