Jude Collins

Sunday, 6 October 2013

That Seanad referendum: five things to think about

Well, that's that then. The electorate have delivered, in Enda's word, a "wallop" to Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin, and a pat on the back to Micheal Martin. Who was it said "The people have spoken - the bastards"? Glad it wasn't me.

Meanwhile, a few thoughts about any future Seanad.

1.  It should/must be democratic. If you believe in democracy, you'll be appalled at the present situation where 1% of the electorate cast ballots for people to take posts which pay €60,000 a year and which have the most lax of requirements. Talk of 'reform of the Seanad' will be meaningless until it's changed so that people like me, who happen to be graduates of the National University, have a vote, while those who are not graduates of NUI do not. If it's not built on the basis of total democracy, the rest will be irrelevant. Except, of course, you're a fascist or Blueshirt or some such.

2. The new Seanad should do something useful. That is to say, it should bring something to 26-county politics that isn't there at present. It might be that it will be composed of people with expertise in a number of relevant areas, who can advise the government of the day. I've often wondered how politicians here, in Westminster, in the Dail, can move smoothly from being Minister in one department to Minister in another. Do none of these jobs require any prior knowledge/skills?

3. The idea of the Taoiseach of the day nominating a number of senators is unacceptable and stinks of patronage. Micheal Martin, basking in the warmth of his unexpected victory yesterday, was busy explaining how the Taoiseach's nominations to the Seanad should be representative of minorities, in which he included "people from Northern Ireland".  Until the Seanad has some real influence - in this case, so it could further the interests of the people in the north of the country - the window-dressing of northern worthies turning up once or twice is unworthy of consideration. Don't patronise us, Micheal. We're not a minority. We're part of the Irish nation. And the Taoiseach should have NO nominations. Rien. Zilch.

4.  The three parties who backed the wrong horse - Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin - should ask themselves what they were thinking of when they did so. Clearly it was contrary to the wishes of most Irish people, or most Irish people who voted. Did they believe the polls and turn a deaf ear to the people they met? In the case of Sinn Féin, the fact that Gerry Adams was in favour of retaining the Seanad while other Shinners - notably Pearse Doherty - were opposed to its retention might bear closer scrutiny. There's a tendency to think of Gerry Adams ("He's 65, you know") as near-to-if-not-over-the-hill and of Pearse Doherty as a potential party leader, a young vigorous man with a firm grasp of economics. Careful thought about the validity of both lines of thinking might be profitable.

5. Until the Seanad is reformed, the present batch of senators should be banned from the airwaves, particularly television. The sight of them leppin' and whooping with joy, in the belief that their current gravy train will keep on rolling - led, of course, by the ghastly David Norris - was just a bit stomach-retching. And any actor who speaks their lines for them should have their tongues cut out and nailed to a piece of wood outside Leinster House.


  1. "Careful thought about the validity of both lines of thinking might be profitable"
    I suppose that's as near as we're going to get of criticism of Gerry Adams on your blog!

  2. 1,2,3 and 5 of your things to think about were straight forward enough, if not a bit frightening for actors. but 4 causes difficulties. It's all very cloak and dagger stuff, like saying something but really saying nothing. Was it Gerry Adams or Pearse Doherty who lost the party money in the bookies? Careful thought and scrutiny indeed and less Whitehall. As for the question posed at the top of the page. Well it's usually attributed to Dick Turk but Shankill Road people know it was really Gerry Adams when he was referring to them after the 1992 Westminster elections.

  3. My low opinion of the southern electorate just hit ground level after this referendum result.

    The ROI - the only State on the planet where a majority of the electorate vote to retain a Chamber only 1% of them can cast a ballot in electing.

  4. On point 3, all Irish citizens living in the North (i.e. those who opt for Irish citizenship) should have a vote AS A RIGHT - not subject to a Taoiseach's token nomination.

    On point 2, lets go back to the original idea of having vocational experts. Wouldbe good to have representatives from various walks of life in the Seanad. Not sure how to achieve this but that would be the aim.

    (I think there's a typo in point 1 about the NUI graduates?).