The future of the Seanad

Seanad, via Oireachtas.ieThe following appears under the above heading in the letters page of today’s Irish Times:

Sir,

As academics engaged in research in a variety of different disciplines we strongly advocate a No vote in the upcoming referendum on Seanad abolition.

We believe that to tackle the major issues affecting our society, it is vital that there should be more scrutiny of legislation and executive accountability, not less; that the level of vocational expertise in our parliamentary system should be strengthened, not eliminated; and that political participation by citizens in deliberative democratic processes should be intensified, not reduced. While the Seanad, as currently constituted, is not sufficiently equipped to deliver on these ideals, the reform proposals set forth in the Seanad Bill 2013 proposed by Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone go some way to meeting them.

By broadening the nomination process and giving all citizens the right to elect our senators, the Quinn-Zappone Bill seeks to implement the real value of bicameralism in providing space for reflection and debate by two sets of qualitatively different representatives. By increasing the Seanad’s powers of scrutiny in a range of areas and providing for the right of the people to force the Seanad to debate on an issue of national importance, this reform package has the capacity to bring new expertise and scrutiny into the parliamentary system and to provide a channel for citizens to express their views, their ideas and their suggestions for change, thus strengthening the foundations of democracy in our country.

The only hope for real reform is a No vote.

Yours, etc,

Prof Ivana Bacik, School of Law, TCD;
Dr Cathryn Costello, Faculty of Law, Oxford University;
Dr Yvonne Daly, School of Law and Government, DCU;
Dr Shane Darcy, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Prof Fiona de Londras, Durham Law School, Durham University;
Larry Donnelly, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Prof Diarmaid Ferriter, School of History and Archives, UCD;
Dr Graham Finlay, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD;
Prof Conor Gearty, Department of Law, London School of Economics;
Dr Aidan Kane, School of Business and Economics, NUI Galway;
Dr Padraic Kenna, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Dr Robert Mooney, School of Sociology, UCD;
Dr Ronan McCrea (Faculty of Laws, University College London)
Dr Noel McGrath, School of Law, UCD;
Dr Cian Murphy, School of Law, King’s College London;
Prof Gary Murphy, School of Law and Government, DCU;
Colm O’Cinnéide, Faculty of Laws, University College London;
Prof Donncha O’Connell, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Dr Eoin O’Dell, School of Law, TCD;
Charles O’Mahony, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Prof Gerard Quinn, Centre for Diability Law and Policy, NUI Galway;
Dr Niamh Reilly, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway;
Dr Ciara Smyth, School of Law, NUI Galway;
Prof Jennifer Todd, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD;
Dr John Walsh, School of Languages, Literature and Cultures, NUI Galway;
Judy Walsh, School of Social Justice, UCD;
Suzanne Egan, School of Law, UCD, Belfield, Dublin 4.

I’m proud to join such stellar company in signing this letter; and kudos to Suzanne Egan for bringing us together and arranging its publication!

Update (1 Oct 2013): There is a reply by another group of academics in today’s letters’ page of the Irish Times, urging a vote the other way.

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