The Seanad requires deep constitutional and electoral reform to prevent it from being a ‘waiting room for the Dáil’.
That’s according to Security Expert Declan Power, who said the Seanad could give people “a much clearer voice if they used it properly”.
A recent Irish Daily Mail report found that one-third of all Senators did not attend more than half of all Seanad votes this year.
Mr Power told On the Record with Gavan Reilly the Seanad has often let people campaign for issues that were otherwise ignored.
“David Norris a very good case in point,” he said. “He was a voice in the wilderness.
“Having a seat in the Seanad allowed him to voice things that got traction in Irish society that wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Despite that, Journalist Valerie Cox said the level of absenteeism in the Seanad is “extraordinary”.
“Maybe there is nothing for the Senators to do, so that would mean maybe we don’t need them,” she said.
“The Seanad is seen very much as a stepping stone to go somewhere else, whether going to European as an MEP or becoming a TD.”
'A holding pen'
The Seanad, according to Ms Cox, is also a “holding pen” for people who fail to gain a seat in the Dáil in the general election.
“If you just look at the list of senators, lots of them were previously TDs and now they’re TDs recuperating,” she said.
Mr Power agreed the Seanad’s current system of electing members is defunct.
In particular, he said the University panel – where graduates of UCD, UCC, NUI Maynooth and Galway university elect three Senators – and the Trinity College panel are outdated.
“That flies in the face of the ethos of a republic,” he said. “Everybody should have a vote.”
The Supreme Court previously ruled the university electoral panels are unconstitutional.
Mr Power said the Seanad reform that was promised at the 2013 referendum must be implemented.
“Not just an adjustment constitutionally or legally, but who we’re nominating to the Seanad,” he said.
“A lot of the time we get TDs in the Dail who should be a Senator – they're single-issue focused.
“There’s nothing wrong with being a single-issue person, but you’d be better suited to do it in the Seanad.
“You're not bogged down by local politics and potholes.”
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