Wednesday, 18 November 2020
Seanad Bill 2020: Second Stage
I welcome the Minister of State on his weekly visit to the Seanad. I broadly support this legislation. We had quite a strong debate on the Bill I brought forward last week, the purpose of which is to enact the seventh amendment to the Constitution. The legislation before us relates to a broader question on our democracy and what we would like to see happen during the lifetime of this Oireachtas. It will be good if, at the end of this period, we are able to say that we introduced an effective electoral commission and implemented Seanad reform along the lines of what is suggested in Senator McDowell's Bill. I have issues with some parts of his Bill but they can be teased out on Committee Stage.
We need to look more generally at how we deal with particular business. I find it difficult that the Whip is applied in every circumstance. I certainly believe that for matters relating to the programme for Government and important issues such as the budget, the party Whip must apply. On issues such as this legislation, however, there should be a lot more crossing of the aisle. I hope that in the discussion that will happen on this legislation that there will be a lot of crossing of the aisle crossing. I know happened at the committee chaired by Senator McDowell. Prior to that Dr. Manning's group and Mary O'Rourke's group examined this matter. In fact, Seanad reform is the modern equivalent of draining the River Shannon because it is proposed on a regular basis. We should be the Oireachtas that delivers Seanad reform.
I disagree with much of what was said by Senator Burke, particularly as a great deal of it was a rerun of the 2013 referendum. We need to move beyond that. We need to look at modern ways of voting and have a modern electoral register. I support the Bill.