Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Seanad Reform: Motion
Rónán Mullen (Independent)
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Finneran, to the House and I commend my colleague, Senator O'Toole, on tabling this motion. I recall my own words in my maiden speech on my first day in the Seanad in which I expressed my hope that at the next election, I would not have the embarrassment of meeting graduates whose degrees were as good as mine but who were not in a position to vote for either university panel because of an outdated system of election. The Minister is to be commended on appearing to be ready finally to bring this issue to a head and to introduce the necessary reform. He has stated he will introduce legislation before the end of the year and that the next Seanad election will involve the election by a wider constituency of university graduates of the six Senators to be elected from the university panels.
I commend the work that has been done by various people over the years in bringing forward this issue. I commend the work of Graduate Equality, which was founded by a former Member of this House, Mr. Seán O'Connor, who worked very hard on this issue. I also wish Mr. Colm Hamrogue well, from whom all Members have heard recently, and who is newly responsible for Graduate Equality. I am sure they will be highly satisfied by the Minister's announcement this evening, and rightly so.
The motion tabled by Senator O'Toole looks to the need for a wider approach to reform and I share that view in respect of the reform of the other vocational panels elected by local authority members and so on. However, given the complexity of that issue, Members should not delay by a single day the necessary reform in respect of the graduate panels. The debate on Seanad reform must continue well beyond the debate about how university or third level graduates elect. While graduates of the institutes of technology, the University of Limerick and Dublin City University should participate as soon as possible, I seek further reform. I question, for example, the appointment of Senators by the Taoiseach which may offend against the spirit of the separation of powers. There should be a debate as to whether the President would be a more appropriate person to nominate people to the Seanad.