Your Vote Is No Good Here



From top: Seanad Eireann; Anne Marie McNally

Are you are one of the lucky ones who can cast your vote in the upcoming Seanad election?

Make it count.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

It’s almost election time again. No matter what Bill and Ben decide in the big room of chats, there will be an election in the coming weeks – an election to elect national legislators who will preside over the passage of legislation that will impact on both the country as a whole and your life personally.

The catch here is this; unless you are one of a handful of elite graduates from select institutions then you will not get the chance to that vote in that election.

Yes, you guessed it, it’s the Seanad election.

To be clear, even if a General Election is called we will still have to go ahead with the current Seanad election and then following the General Election there would be yet another Seanad election with the same process. The Seanad election MUST take place within 90 days of a General Election being called.

Two years ago there was a referendum put to the people as to whether to keep or abolish the Seanad. The third (& seemingly most favoured option) which was not put to the people was to maintain the Seanad with dramatic reforms to the institution itself and to the process which ‘elects’ the institution.

Two years since that referendum we stand poised to have another run of the Upper House with absolutely zero changes to either the institution or the electoral process associated with it.

Of the 60 members who will sit in our Upper House, 11 will be nominated by the Taoiseach (whomever that may be!) six  will be elected from the University Panels – consisting of just two universities – the National University of Ireland and the University Of Dublin (Trinity).

Each of those two institutions will elect three members to make up the six University members of the Seanad.

Feeling represented yet?

The remaining 43 ‘panel’ members of the Seanad will run on the panel where they supposedly have ‘knowledge and practical experience’ on the subject of the panel.

It’s not clear if being a rejected General Election candidate qualifies you but it appears so judging by the candidates for the upcoming panels).

The panels are as follows:

-Cultural and Educational Panel
-Agricultural Panel
-Labour Panel
-Industrial and Commercial Panel
-Administrative Panel.

Now here’s the real rub…you may be thinking ‘OK I didn’t attend either Trinity or NUI but I can choose my legislators on the general panel elections…’

Not unless you are either (a) a member of the incoming Dáil (b) a Member of the outgoing Seanad –the irony! Or (c) an elected Councillor on either a city or county council.

So unless you’re one of a very select few who went to either of the ‘chosen’ Universities or an elected official (or a Senator vacating your seat!) then you will not have the opportunity to have any say whatsoever in the election of the 60 people who will sit in the Upper House of our Oireachtas.

Now you may console yourself by saying things like ‘ah sure they’ve no power anyway’ and for the most part you wouldn’t be far wrong however if we want an Oireachtas and a legislature that is truly representative of the citizens and that is for and of the citizens then we cannot sit back and allow the Seanad to continue in its current form.

We should not accept that 60 undemocratically elected people will spend the next few years (or months depending on the political landscape) coasting along on very nice salaries and expense accounts while being cushioned by the ‘there’s not much we can do anyway’ argument.

That’s why when you (if you are one of the very few lucky ones who can) cast your vote in the upcoming Seanad election then vote for someone who is not satisfied to hide in the shadows for the next lifespan of the Seanad.

Elect someone who is prepared to stand up and challenge the status quo both inside and outside the Upper House,

Someone with genuine background on the panel they are running on or someone on the University panels who has raised their voice for change against the odds rather than the high-profile politician who’s using a branch of our democracy as a stepping stone or a layover on their political career.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

36 thoughts on “Your Vote Is No Good Here

        1. Anomanomanom

          It’s not people don’t agree, but your brain must be the size of a peanut if that’s all you took from that whole piece.

        2. ahjayzis

          I think he’s just treating it with the contempt it deserves.

          That ain’t TL;DR, it’s didn’t bother reading/have no issue with points raised, I’m going to call her names instead.

          1. My Meaty Member

            incidentally I did vote for Donnelly – but that’s because in his heart of hearts I understand he’s a Blueshirt anyway and will sell out these guys first chance he gets – watch this space

            he’s definitely a civic-justice minded man though, as is Catherine Murphy, but some of these other candidates just aren’t up to the job, as the public clearly understand

  1. Clampers Outside!

    “one of a handful of elite graduates” …funny that, I thought Ma Clampers sent me there because it was the nearest uni, and allowed me stay at home while there, and thereby cheapest for me to go to…. but “elite” …

    This is it……………… made it Ma, top of the world ! Elite!

    * licks palm, and slicks hair back *

  2. Disgruntled Goat

    NUI in is 4 universities not 1 (UCD, UCC, NUIG & Maynooth) so thanks to free fees and wide availability of grant aid means a good chunk of the adult population likely has a qualification & therefore can register for a vote.

    Not advocating for the Seanad as I think it’s abused as a safety net for the un-electable/party toadies but at least do your research before posting.

    1. Owen C

      It’s probably also the first time the Shannon College of Hotel Management or St. Angela’s College, Sligo (both members of NUI) has been called elite (no offence intended). The NUI Seanad system is indeed peculiar, but i’m not sure it can really be called ‘elite’ given its fairly wide spectrum of admissions.

      1. ahjayzis

        It’s elite in that you need a degree. It’s even more elite that you need a degree from a certain institution – mine doesn’t count, but someone who studied basket weaving and Aramaic’s does.

        If one degree confers democratic rights and another doesn’t,the first can sensibly be termed an ‘elite degree’.

          1. ahjayzis

            “I attended the Irish National Academy of Aromatherapy and all I got was this lousy ballot paper.”

        1. Owen C

          Definition of elite: “a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group or society.”

          UL & DCU are generally considered equal or higher quality to NUIG or NUI Maynooth (subject/course dependent). The NUI status is not down to any eliteness, it is simply down to an historic quirk of Irish electoral structure.

  3. Harry Molloy

    Not saying I agree or disagree with the current Seanad voting system, but it would be useful for someone (and I’m looking directly at the Soc Dems here as the thinking man’s responsible party!) to explain exactly why it was set up as such as there is a logic behind it.

    If there is a desire to change a system it is worthwhile to understand it first – Mr. Donnelly as a former McKinsey man should know this and it lines up with his approach to health: First you get the “As Is” and understand all the challenges and issues before you propose the “To Be” solution.

    Personally, I would want to avoid the Seanad being a Dail mk2 in terms of a popularity contest, though haven’t given it enoug thought as to how I would like to see candidates being confirmed

    1. Ant, not Dec.

      Follows Catholic social teaching about the importance of all sections of society working together and each having thier own place in society.

      from Wikipedia – The new system of Vocational Panels used to nominate candidates for the Seanad was inspired by Roman Catholic social teaching of the 1930s, and in particular the 1931 papal encyclical Quadragesimo anno. In this document Pope Pius XI argued that the Marxist concept of class conflict should be replaced with a vision of social order based on the co-operation and interdependence of society’s various vocational groups.

  4. b

    “It’s not clear if being a rejected General Election candidate qualifies you but it appears so judging by the candidates for the upcoming panels).

    The panels are as follows:

    -Cultural and Educational Panel
    -Agricultural Panel
    -Labour Panel
    -Industrial and Commercial Panel
    -Administrative Panel.
    – Broadsheet Columnist”

    1. timble

      Candidates must be qualified for each panel in some way. For example if you run on the Industrial and Commercial panel you have to have been a company director or some solid connection. For Labour panel you need a connection to trade unions/organised labour, etc. The determination of whether you are qualified or not is overseen by the Seanad Election returning officer (Clerk of the Seanad) and the final deterimination is by a High Court judge.

      1. Emah

        Or….or! immediately big up your cultural credentials so you can make that panel by, I dunno, having your political mates parachute you onto the board of a cultural institution.
        Seems like fair system alrite!

  5. scottser

    I really hope that Doctor Rory’ doesn’t get elected. The seanad is already full of self important poo talkers, we don’t need another.

  6. AndrewSB49

    Hard to believe that FG & Labour wanted to abolish this fancy retirement home for rejected politicians. It’s the Republic’s ‘Honours’ system where politicicians can dish-out some goodies to (sometimes) disreputable colleagues.

  7. DubLoony

    The NUI Panel has 30 candidates, a tiny handful who actually have anything to say on universities. Its why I supported Luke Field, Laura Harmon.

    Jerry Beades of Irish Land League / save Killiney millionaires from eviction fame is also running, as well as the incumbent Sen. Mullen. There are enough older, conservative graduates around to have him remain, unfortunately.

  8. Willie Banjo

    Everyone had a chance to vote on the senate recently. It was called a referendum. Most of ye voted to maintain it. I voted to abolish. There were no other choices on the ballot paper. If we had abolished it, we’d be looking at how we develop a proper second chamber for the Dáil by now. Instead you’re stuck with the same old Seanad. that’s what you get for listening to Michael McDowell.

    Ironically, I have a (university) vote in this farce.

  9. Ant, not Dec.

    Amusing that there is no mention of the Social Democrat Candidate on the Ag panel – Jennifer Whitmore. Also no mention of the deals being done and the votes being swapped by Soc Dem councillors and TDs for support. Hard to take someone lecturing about a process they are part of, and all the more so when they dont even own up to the fact they are part of it.

  10. Jake38

    “one of a handful of elite graduates from select institutions…….”,
    Such as, oh for example, St Angelas College,Sligo!?

    1. ahjayzis

      Privileged is another word. It’s not a judgement on the quality or whatever of the place – it’s the fact that their degrees come with an enhanced democratic franchise, whereas one from DIT doesn’t.

  11. Andy

    *opens résumé*
    *edits educational qualifications to “ELITE” x 2*
    *closes résumé*
    *waits for money to come pouring in*

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