Let emigrants vote for Seanad, candidates say

By Peter McDermott

Two candidates for Seanad Éireann are calling for a radical overhaul of the body that would allow all Irish citizens, including emigrants, to vote for its members.

In a joint letter to Irish newspapers, Robin Hanan, a candidate on the Trinity College panel, and Peter Mooney, who is seeking election on the National University of Ireland panel, said that a "reformed Seanad should have strengthened powers of inquiry and a specific remit to hold hearings to scrutinize key public appointments, the process for allocating major state contracts and important public policy decisions."

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The two candidates, along with Seamus Boland, a candidate on the Administrative Panel (one of the five panels elected by TDs and councilors), said: "The proposal to abolish the Seanad, now part of the Programme for Government, was announced without any serious discussion on how a reformed Seanad could strengthen democracy and lead to better scrutiny of decisions."

Hanan, a former civil servant, was CEO of the Irish Refugee Council from 2007 to 2009 and previously chaired the main policy groups of the European Anti-Poverty Network.

Peter Mooney, a founder member of the Simon Community, which advocates and provides shelter for the homeless, was a producer on RTE Radio for 25 years. He now runs an independent media company, Genii, with his daughter. He said he would use his Seanad seat as a platform for people not represented in the Dáil, particularly children, and also the community and voluntary sector.

Hanan, who lives in Bray, Co. Wicklow, with his wife and two children, told the Echo on Tuesday that ballot papers should have arrived in recent days to voters living in the United States. He gives details on his website about how registered Trinity graduates can have their ballot papers reissued.

He and some other candidates entered the contest believing that the left-of-center vote would be up for grabs on the Trinity panel. However, Senator David Norris, though he is one of the favorites in the upcoming presidential election, is standing for the Seanad again. Meanwhile, Senator Ivana Bacik, a Trinity law professor, narrowly failed to win a Dáil seat for Labour behind party leader Eamon Gilmore in the Dun Laoighaire constituency in the General Election. So, she is also fighting to retain her Seanad seat. (Shane Ross, the third Trinity senator, was elected to the Dáil in the Dublin South constituency.)

"I started my campaign early, so I'm still very hopeful," Hanan said.

Polling closes at 11 a.m. on April 27.

For more details about Hanan and Mooney go to robinhanan.ie and petermooney.ie.