In 1979, the people of Ireland voted to amend the constitution, so that graduates of universities other than the NUI and Dublin University (Trinity) could vote in Seanad elections. But although NIHE Dublin and Limerick were later upgraded to university status, their graduates were never given a Seanad vote. 33 years later, our government wants to abolish the Senate. That tells you a lot about what is wrong with Ireland.
During the Children’s Rights Referendum, I heard a lot about civic society groups. In theory the Bunreacht, through the institution of the Seanad, offers a wonderful vision of civic society, where vocational panels select senators to represent all interests in our democracy.
In practice, fewer than one thousand TDs and councillors elect most senators, and the nomination process is controlled by the parties.
A constitutional convention will consider reforms in the coming months, but it is already irrelevant. It’s proposals can be safely ignored, in the event that they leap out of the carefully constructed fences the government framed in its terms of reference.
Ireland voted for children’s rights today. We’re great people for amending the constitution. But as the 1979 vote showed, we’re not so hot on following through.