Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Seanad Bill 2020: Second Stage
Paddy Burke (Fine Gael)
I did not get a definitive answer when I asked at a committee meeting what the cost would be of extending the franchise under the constraints that exist with postage and everything, but in my view it would cost twice as much to elect 60 Members to Seanad Éireann as it would to elect 160 Members to Dáil Éireann. It costs somewhere north of €20 million for a Dáil election, so one would be talking about more than €40 million to elect Seanad Éireann under the new Bill.
It has all the sorts of problems I have mentioned, so I hope that the Minister of State evaluates all of the issues before he returns to the House at the end of next year, and that he puts us on a path forward. There is no doubt that there needs to be change, and while this House does a great job scrutinising legislation, we can do a better job if we stick at it. One of the problems is that the vast majority of Members want to be Members of Dáil Éireann. The Labour proposal to have elections on the same day could be a way forward. There are many issues to address and there are inadequacies and shortcomings in this Bill.
There is also the problem in regard to the counting of votes. One could have a count for a vocational panel where there are 500 electors with 40 or 50 candidates. One could imagine how long that would take; it could take weeks to count and transfer the percentages of votes, etc. That could take an enormous length of time as well, and one would also have to consider the cost of holding those counts in centres. There is a lot to take into account if we want to reform Seanad Éireann. After all, we are talking about a second Chamber. In the previous Seanad, the Government had no majority; in this Seanad, the majority is about two to one, as the Government has 40 and the Opposition has about 20 seats, and I do not see much difference in either Seanad. In the previous Seanad, there was not much of a change in the way we did our business compared with the way we are doing it today-----