Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Seanad Reform: Motion
John Ellis (Fianna Fail)
I have no gripe with university representation in the Seanad and I would welcome an extension of the franchise. However, if we are to extend it to all third level institutions in the State, we should also consider extending it to institutions in Northern Ireland. Students at those institutions should be allowed to vote if they hold Irish passports, as many of them do. This would be a helpful gesture to the people of Northern Ireland. If this is done, there should be an open election, with no categorisation of the different panels. In other words, six Members would be elected by graduates of all the third level institutions, North and South. Moreover, any graduate who is a resident of the State and making PRSI contributions should have the right to vote. In other words, those people who were obliged to leave the State to obtain their educational qualifications should have the right to vote.
I hoped to say more but my time is almost up. We must be very careful in making changes to the panel system which has afforded various groups the opportunity to be represented in this House. Councillors — who, we should remember, are democratically elected — should continue, along with Deputies and Senators, to have the right to cast their vote. There is a proposal that 20 Members should be elected under some type of national system. If it is agreed that there is a shortfall of representation throughout the State, why should we not address it by instead increasing the number of Dáil seats by 20?