Seanad

  • Earlier this week Eurostat ruled that State funds spent on Irish Water will have to stay on the exchequer balance sheet. Minister Noonan himself has described this as “embarrassing” and “controversial” for the Government but it is more than just embarrassing and controversial,

  • As the  Seanad Election 2016 approaches, the question has to be asked ‘does party politics serve the people or the party’.  The fallout from the General Election 2016 has resulted in many high profile TDs losing their seats and the challenge for   political parties now is how to enhance the profile of those who lost so that they are ready for the next general election whenever that comes. The people of Ireland decided by way of a referendum to retain the Seanad in 2013.  However, I doubt that anyone voting in that referendum wanted the Seanad to continue as the old boy’s staging post that it has become since 1937.

  • SEANAD EIREANN 

    This is the Upper House of the Oireachtas or Parliament. It is called the Seanad in Irish or Senate in English and its members are called Senators. The modern Seanad Éireann was established by the Constitution of Ireland in 1937. The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of Ireland and it established an Independent State based on a system of representative Democracy. Unlike the Dáil which is directly elected, Senators are  partly appointed, partly indirectly elected and partly elected by a limited electorate.

    MEMBERSHIP OF SEANAD EIREANN  

    Seanad Éireann consists of sixty Senators:

    ·         Eleven are appointed by the Taoiseach 

    ·         Six are elected by the graduates of certain Irish universities:

    ·         Three by graduates of the University of Dublin.

    ·         Three by graduates of the National University of Ireland.

    ·         Forty Three  elected from five special panels of nominees known as Vocational Panels by an electorate consisting of TDs(member of Dáil Éireann), Senators and City and County councillors.

    Nomination is restrictive for the panel seats with only Oireachtas members and designated 'nominating bodies' entitled to nominate. Each of the five panels consists, in theory, of individuals possessing special knowledge of, or experience in, one of five specific fields. In practice the nominees are party members, often, though not always, failed or aspiring Dáil candidates:

    ·               Administrative Panel: Public administration and social services (including the voluntary sector).

    ·               Agricultural Panel: Agriculture and the fisheries.

    ·               Cultural and Educational Panel: Education, the arts, the Irish language and Irish culture and literature

    ·               Industrial and Commercial Panel: Industry and commerce (including engineering and architecture).

    ·               Labour Panel: Labour (organised or otherwise).

    Under the Constitution of Ireland the general election for the Seanad must occur not later than 90 days after the dissolution of Dáil Éireann. The election occurs under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote (however in the panel constituencies each vote counts as 1000 meaning fractions of votes can be transferred). Membership is open to all Irish citizens over 21, but a senator cannot also be a member of Dáil Éireann. However, as stated above, nomination to vocational panel seats is restricted; while nomination in the University constituencies requires signatures of 10 graduates.

    SEANAD BY ELECTION 10TH OCTOBER 2014

    In the case of a vacancy in the Vocational Panels, by death, resignation or election to the European Parliament, a Seanad by-election takes place. Seanad by-elections involve Oireachtas members only, which in the past have ensured that the Government of the Day decides the successful candidate. University vacancies, however, are filled under different rules, wherein the university in question holds a specific by-election.  In October 2014 a Seanad vacancy arose by the election to the European Parliament of Senator Deirdre Clune. I contested and won that election on the 10th of October and was honoured to be appointed to the Cultural and Educational Panel and a Senator in the 24th Seanad 

    http://www.oireachtas.ie/members-hist/default.asp?housetype=1&HouseNum=24&disp=mem#tabs-3

    WHO CAN BECOME A SENATOR?

    Every citizen of Ireland over 21 years of age who is not disqualified by the Constitution or by law is eligible to be elected to the Seanad. Persons undergoing a prison sentence in excess of six months and persons of unsound mind are disqualified for election. Certain occupations are incompatible with membership of the Seanad, for example, members of the judiciary, senior officials of the institutions of the European Union, civil servants, whole-time members of the Defence Forces and Gardaí (police).

    TIME OF ELECTION

     A general election to the Seanad must take place not later than 90 days after the dissolution of the Dáil (Lower House). The dates for the various stages of the election (nomination, polling, etc.) are appointed by order of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

    PANEL MEMBERS

    Before each General Election five panels are formed of candidates having knowledge and practical experience of the following interests and services respectively:- (i) Cultural and Educational Panel: - national language and culture, literature, art, education, law and medicine; (ii) Agricultural Panel: - agricultural and allied interests and fisheries; (iii) Labour Panel: - labour, whether organised or unorganised; (iv) Industrial and Commercial Panel: - industry and commerce, including banking, finance, accountancy, engineering and architecture; (v) Administrative Panel: - public administration and social services, including voluntary social activities                                                      

    REGISTER OF NOMINATING BODIES 

     The Seanad returning officer (Clerk of the Seanad) maintains a register of bodies entitled to nominate candidates to the panels of candidates. To be eligible for registration as a nominating body, an organisation must be concerned mainly with and be representative of the interests and services of one or other of the panels. A body cannot be registered in respect of more than one panel. Organisations which are mainly profit-making concerns are not eligible for registration. The register is revised annually.

     

     

     

  • SEANAD EIREANN is the Upper House of the Oireachtas or Parliament. It is called the Seanad in Irish or Senate in English and its members are called Senators. The modern Seanad Éireann was established by the Constitution of Ireland in 1937. The Constitution of Ireland is the fundamental law of Ireland and it established an Independent State based on a system of representative Democracy. Unlike the Dáil which is directly elected,   Senators are  partly appointed, partly indirectly elected and partly elected by a limited electorate.

  • Today (19 Feb 2019) at the Order of Business in the Seanad,  I  countered the very serious suggestion by the Leader of the House, Senator Jerry Buttimer,  Fine Gael that the ongoing debate  on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 is bringing the Seanad into disrepute. It has been implied that the almost 70  hours of debate has damaged the reputation of the Seanad and by implication its members.  I pointed out that since the commencement of Committee Stage debate, the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption had questioned whether the  Bill was in line with European Standards and if it actually secured judicial independence. In addition the European Commission in a report in March 2018 was definitive and explicit in its  view  that the Bill was not in line with European Standards. As recently as November 2018 the Irish Times Editorial stated “It is still not too late for the Government to scrap the ill-advised Judicial Appointments Bill being foisted on the country at the whim of Minister for Transport,  Shane Ross.”

    I asked the Cathaoirleach if those of us who were doing our best to scrutinize, amend or oppose sections the Bill, were the "enemy from within" or whether allowing one single elected member of Dáil Éireann to fundamentally interfere with a central tenet  of democracy was in fact the real enemy of the democratic process.  I reiterated that while I was  aware that  Leader of the House had a political responsibility  to ensure the speedy passage of the Government's Legislative Programme through the Oireachtas, I seriously opposed any attempt by him to intertwine the reputation of the Seanad with the fate of Minister Shane Ross's legislation as to do so would in itself be a denigration of the role of the Seanad.  I went on to say  that nobody  reading the extensive transcript of deliberations on the Bill or witnessing it live,  could fault the quality of the debate or the public service benefit of having a former Tánaiste, Minister for Justice and Attorney General interrogate  the text of this Bill line by line, word by word. I strongly denied that  taking the necessary time to point out just how dangerous this legislation is to the independence and quality of our Judiciary is a misuse of any standing order of the Seanad,  parliamentary privilege or procedure.   I asked the Leader not to sully the reputation of the Seanad because of his own personal political demands and pressures and expressed a genuine gratitude for the checks and balances  built into our Constitution to prevent a rogue executive from allowing a single member of the Dáil to dictate the future of our Judiciary. 

    Debate on the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill 2017 continues this evening in the Seanad and I welcome the opportunity  to make a very positive and considered contribution on the amendments that I and my colleagues in the Independent group in the Seanad have tabled. 

     

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