The Irish Senate chamber. RollingNews.ie photo.
By Irish Echo Staff
It’s Groundhog Day.
Not just here in the united States but also apparently in the Irish Senate, An Seanad.
That, at least, is what Taoiseach Leo Varadkar believes.
And he would like to see some changes in the Irish parliament’s upper chamber.
“When we talk about renewing Irish politics in a general sense, or reforming the Seanad to give a specific example, it can often feel like Groundhog Day. It seems like we are condemned to do the same thing over and over, often repeating the same mistakes, with little or nothing changing,” said Varadkar.
By way of change, reported the Journal.ie, Varadkar said that the Seanad should be allowed to elect senators from Northern Ireland, from both nationalist and unionist communities, so it would have an “all-island dimension.”
Addressing Seanad members Mr. Varadkar said having both nationalist and unionist representatives would provide “different voices on issues which concern us all.”
Varadkar, according to the journal.ie report, made the comment as he announced that a new committee on Seanad reform will soon be established to consider the Manning Report which is derived from a working group on Seanad reform established by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2014.
The new committee, which will be made up of Oireachtas members, assisted by outside experts, will have eight months to develop specific proposals to legislate for Seanad reform.
Any proposed changes the committee put forward should be used to elect the Seanad after next, said Varadkar.
Among the recommendations to be explored is the idea of allowing Irish citizens living abroad the right to vote in Seanad elections.
“As Ireland takes its place among the nations of the world – an island at the center of the world – the voices of Irish people around the world should also be represented and heard. I support the election of more senators to represent our diaspora, to add to the good work of people like Senator Billy Lawless,” said Varadkar.
This was in reference to Chicago-based Lawless who was not elected but rather appointed by former taoiseach Kenny.
Currently, the Seanad has 60 members, with the taoiseach nominating 11 members, while another six are elected by university graduates, and 43 by Seanad panel elections who represent vocational interests: culture and education, agriculture, labor, industry and commerce, and administration.
Added the report: The taoiseach said he has had concerns about the role of the Seanad in the past, stating that he voted for the abolition of the Seanad in the 2013 referendum on the issue (the public voted to retain the Seanad 52% to 48%).
“In 2013, I supported the referendum to abolish the Seanad, as I was not convinced by those who argued that it would be possible to reform it,” he said.
“I did not believe that this would happen, as those opposed to abolition were not united on what a reformed Seanad would look like, or how it would function.”
“I believe in 2018 we have an opportunity to break that cycle. I believe we can build a new political landscape which will renew the relationship between Irish people and their Oireachtas.
“And I believe that we can achieve the kind of genuine reforms that people in this chamber have been advocating for a very long time.”