Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Seanad Bill 2020: Second Stage
I have asked Trinity College several times to give us access to the email addresses of constituents. I do not see why it would not. It is a way of communicating with them. I would like that to be included in the Bill. We should have access to the identities and email addresses of our constituents. That would make democracy considerably better.
The Bill states, "In order to be eligible to be nominated as a candidate for the institutions of higher education constituency, the person shall be required to hold a requisite qualification". I wonder what kind of lunatic would use that requirement. People talk about elitism; there is elitism for you. I glory in the fact that to be a candidate for either the National University of Ireland or Trinity College, one does not have to have a degree. One has just to get a nominator, a seconder and six assenters. That is democratic and that is the way it should be.
I would like to see anybody defend the provision for Taoiseach's nominees as democratic. It is a farce. Of course that feature was intended to give the Government the balance, but this House should not be an oppositional, party-controlled House. It should be for people who have a professional interest and who are capable of adding something to the debate. They should not have to be members of a political party, although I will acknowledge that many excellent people have been nominated by taoisigh and I pay tribute to the various taoisigh for the calibre of the people they have nominated.
Turning to the provision for the electorate, this is a real stinker. The Bill states, "At every Seanad general election the electorate shall consist of ... Irish citizens who are resident in Ireland". That is a couple of million to start with, despite the fact that somebody gloried in the fact that more than 1 million people never vote, but they have access to the vote if they want. It will include, "persons entitled to claim Irish citizenship in Northern Ireland and who reside in Northern Ireland or in the State". That is another few hundred thousand. It will include, "Irish citizens who hold a current and valid Irish passport and who reside outside the State". There is another few million. What about it? Shove them all in. The more, the merrier - uncle Tom Cobley and all. The Bill goes on to include, "Irish citizens holding a requisite qualification and who are graduates of an institution of higher education in the State, and ... serving members of the Dáil, members of the outgoing Seanad, and serving members of local authorities". I do not know how many million there are there. It is absolute madness.
I will support the Bill. I am not going to go on about it. I made points in the previous debate about, for example, revising and bringing up to date the nominating bodies. That is an obvious one and it really should be done.Like the curate's egg, the Bill is good in parts, but there are some absolutely glaring defects in it, and I hope they will be addressed or amended.