Tuesday, March 24, 2009

 

We need to talk about Donie

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I was contacted last Tuesday by the Late Late Show. They wanted me appear in the studio on Friday’s show. I had to turn them down because I was away. As it turned out the invite was just to sit in the audience and speak for about 30 seconds, so I was glad I wasn’t around.

I managed to watch the debate online later. It turned out that the show was just a hatchet job. Considering that Pat Kenny gets paid about 700k a year (equal to the salary of ten senators) I would have hoped that he could have put on a more balanced show.

Let’s face it, everyone in both chambers of Leinster House believes that fundamental reform of the Seanad is necessary. I spoke about the issue of reform a few weeks ago. My view is that unless we have fundamental reform then the whole place should be scrapped. I’d like to see three key reforms:

1. We need to expand the franchise to every Irish person over 16. Candidates would be nominated by the nomination groups as currently exists (nursing associations, Institute of Engineers of Ireland, etc.). They would be placed on a list system. Voters would be able to choose to vote for candidates and / or professions. Minor changes to the system such as extending the franchise to University of Limerick graduates is not enough. Many of my friends didn’t go to university because they couldn’t afford it or didn’t want to. Why should they have no vote? If we just extend the franchise to other universities then we are just making an undemocratic institution slightly less undemocratic.

2. The work of the Seanad should be reviewed. At the moment we spend too much time making statements of little worth across the floor of the chamber to each other. Senators should have specific roles and powers, for instance the examination and scrutinising of new European legislation. At the moment it’s clear that we are not providing the value to the state that we could provide. This has to change.

3. Transparency of expenses should be introduced. We need to move away from the multitude of allowances to a single allowance, payable on the basis of days attended. People need to know that we are earning the money we get.

If the Government doesn’t implement these proposals then I think we would be better off abolishing the Seanad and introduce the necessary legislation to allow the Dail to pick up the pieces.

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