Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Press Release: Looney calls for Yes vote to “Scrap the Seanad”

Cllr Dermot Looney, Mayor of South Dublin County Council, has called on local people to vote “Yes” in the referendum on October 4th to abolish Seanad Éireann. The Greenhills-based Labour Councillor stated that he would be campaigning for a yes vote in the new Templeogue-Terenure Local Electoral Area, which includes parts of Dublin 12 and 6w as well as areas in Rathfarnham, Firhouse and Knocklyon.

“The Seanad is an irrelevant, undemocratic institution which copperfastens elitism in political representation,” stated Looney. “All three systems of selection into it are an aberration; Taoiseach’s patronage, election by politicians on mar dhea vocational panels, and elitist votes from particular universities. Almost 97% of the citizens in this Republic have no say whatsoever in electing it.”

“With few exceptions, Senators who do manage to get the nod rarely make an impact on the political process. In 75 years the Seanad has only ever rejected two bills, the last by mistake some 50 years ago. Instead of having a serious influence on and input into legislation, the Seanad is instead used by political parties as something between a halfway house for ex- and aspiring TD’s, and a retirement home for others.”

“Over the last four years I have campaigned against the frivolous waste of public money by Senators who send Christmas cards and gifts. That culture has continued right up to this week, with one Fianna Fáil Senator using public funds to advertise the opening of his new bar. ”

“Since its establishment there have been a dozen separate reports written on reforming the Seanad. All of these are now gathering dust on shelves in Leinster House. Now, in response to this referendum, we have seen the emergence of yet further campaigns to retain the Seanad and reform it. Various competing proposals have been made. They range from the unworkable to the fanciful. Former Minister Michael McDowell has proposed that no salary be paid to Senators at all; all well and good for a Senior Counsel, but how is an ordinary worker or unemployed person in our community to be able to hold office?”

“The reality is that there is nothing approaching consensus on what kind of reforms might be brought in, nor any appetite to do so. We can all envisage and propose improvements on the Seanad of today. But this isn’t a political version of Fantasy Football in which we get to try out our favourite formation. There is no evidence that reform will happen. What hope have current proposals of being enacted when the vote by the citizens of Ireland in 1979 to extend the University panel franchise to all third level graduates – before I was even born - has never been legislated for?”

“It is no secret that I am a critic of the Government and am deeply concerned with the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of individuals, including those who are outside the democratic process. But arguments that keeping the Seanad will preserve or even enhance democracy are misguided. Instead, we should adopt a unicameral system with a radically reformed Dáil and a stronger role for local government, along with other democratic reforms in communities, places of work and institutions. To that end, Government should advance serious Dáil reforms and changes to upcoming local government legislation in advance of the Seanad referendum.”

“It is galling indeed to see local lampposts festooned with Fianna Fáil aspirants using the Seanad campaign for self-promotion; this from a party who have been in Government for the majority of the last 75 years, doing nothing at all to reform the rotten Seanad. This is an opportunistic flip-flop by Fianna Fáil who supported abolition as recently as two years ago, but nothing more than we have come to expect from their cynical politics.”
“In the ten years I have been involved in politics, I have argued in articles and speeches for the abolition of the Seanad, making a significant contribution at the 2010 Labour Conference in calling for its abolition. In that decade I have heard all sorts of fanciful notions of ‘Seanad reform’ ranging from the bizarre to the unworkable. It is time to consign this undemocratic charade to the dustbin of history and work for real and genuine democratic reforms.”