Creating a national interest

There’s a better way to choose the Seanad.

In 1925, the Seanad was directly elected by all the people. There was a single nationwide constituency, covering the 26 counties. And since emigration is starting up again, many emigrants should have a vote too. The count would take a while, but that’s hardly a logistical problem beyond our ability. We manage large counts for the European elections, after all.

Second, decouple Dáil and Seanad elections. Give the Seanad a fixed term, and elect senators on the same day we choose local and European representatives. Would people be so angry that the current coalition clings to power in the face our public disapproval if they had the opportunity to elect a Seanad with opposing views, restoring balance to political debate?

Because senators wouldn’t represent specific constituencies, but were elected in a national poll, decoupling reduces the importance of local politics in their decision-making, and ensures a greater chance of senators with a national outlook. Sure, Kerry voters might still club together and send in a Healy Rae, but it would also allow interest groups too dispersed to elect a politician from an existing constituency to elect voices to put forward their views.

[Originally posted as a reply to Gav Reilly’s thoughts on Seanad reform]

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.


  1. Seanad Éireann is a talking shop regardless of how it is elected. Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Portugal and some other small European states have unicameral legislatures and we should too. We should get rid of Seanad Éireann.

  2. Norway is an oddity, since the Sorthing is actually divided into two departments’, which function like separate chambers.

    Meanwhile Austria, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic all have second chambers.

    In Spain, the second house has a combination of directly elected members and representatives appointed by local assemblies. In the Netherlands, the members are chosen by regional assemblies. For every country with a single chamber, there are countries with bicameral parliaments.

    If you want to argue for (or against) the Seanad, you’re going to need more of an argument than “this is what they do in Europe”. There are 27 countries in the EU at the moment, and 27 ways of doing things.

    Make an argument for why one system is better than another. More important, make an argument about how Ireland would benefit.

  3. According to:,

    the Odelsting and the Lagting chambers for the Norwegian parliament were abolished last year. The Norwegian parliament is a unicameral parliament.

    Seanad Éireann is a talking shop, Ger.

    It can only delay rather than veto decisions of Dáil Éireann. Money bills can be delayed for 21 days. Other bills can be delayed for 90 days plus.

    In addition, the Irish taxpayer has to pay salaries and benefits for at least 60 people as well as administration costs.

  4. My information on Norway is dated, I see. The point still remains, for almost 200 years they managed to have a parliament that was somewhat schizophrenic, partly bicameral inside a single house.

    So can I summarize your argument as “the Seanad is broken, lets not fix it, just get rid of it”?

    One last thing though: How much do you think the Seanad, with its 60 members and administrative staff, costs the Irish taxpayer? What would it need to do in order to justify that expense?

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