Letter to Editor – Seanad: why voting No is wise choice

Dear Sir

 

No one has argued convincingly why a two-house system is best, or why keeping and fixing the Seanad and Dáil is essential for our prosperity and wellbeing.

 

A two-house system is the best parliamentary system yet devised. It derives from human nature itself. The simple principle on which a two-house system works is that two heads are better than one.

 

When any individual has to make a decision about what is best to do on an important matter in life, the wise course is to run it by someone whose judgement is trusted and objective.

 

It is the same with Parliament, which is just the same thing scaled-up. The Dáil, or Lower House, is like the individual person needing to decide: it represents the active and passionate part of our national being, as debated by TDs.

 

The Seanad, or Upper House, when working properly, is like the wise person one turns to for guidance: it represents the considered and objective part of our national being.

 

Both are essential for good government and good legislation. Abolition of the Seanad is like cutting off the head of what should be your wise and trusted councillor. For this reason alone, abolition is madness.

 

We are blessed to have a two-house system. Our parliament should be modelled as closely as possible on the principle of ‘two heads are better’. But we’ve made a botch job of this, which is why our system needs fixing.

 

To function well, the Dáil must have an able, independent and objective point of reference outside of itself to which it must refer its legislative proposals.

 

In other words, the Dáil must have a properly functioning Seanad as a prerequisite to doing its own job well. The Seanad is not called the Upper House without good reason.

 

This outlines the respective role of each House and their true relation, one to the other. Our Constitution already provides for this.

 

Well-meaning or not, the fault for the Seanad being the sickly and lowly body we find today lies solely with the politicians themselves. They and their party machines made it so.

 

Obviously, it is best to fix and cure the Seanad by treating its disease with the right medicine. But abolitionists would have us kill the patient instead. This cannot be right.

 

Abolition is not reform, but the avoidance of reform. Not one argument for abolishing the Seanad stands up to scrutiny when taken in the wider view.

 

On the other hand, the case for keeping and fixing it is overwhelming, as anyone who examines the matter honestly will realise.

 

Voting ‘No’ means that we, the people of Ireland….

 

(i) want Seanad Éireann as an institution of government

(ii) want a Seanad that works effectively and is fit-for-purpose

(iii) want a Seanad where we the people have a say in electing its members

 

Abolition offers none of this. We’re being hoodwinked by our politicians into voting ‘Yes’ against our own best interests.

 

‘Yes’ means assenting to mutilating the Constitution, the foundation of all our freedoms as a people and our institutions of government: 42% of its articles will be rewritten. All this for an ill-conceived, ill-considered and foolish political gimmick. This is utter folly.

 

A wise Irish judge once said that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. As individuals we must be vigilant, but informed too. At the level of Parliament, vigilance is the proper function of an effective Seanad. To think otherwise is to be hoodwinked.

 

Referendum-day on Friday 4th October provides an opportunity to fix things. The outcome will affect the lives of everyone. So we need to get it right.

 

A ‘No vote’ will be a de facto demand by the people for intelligent reform and an effective Seanad (and Dáil). This is the Constitutional birthright of every Irish citizen. We’ve waited 75 years for this.

 

Let’s wait no longer.

Yours faithfully

 

Barry Jones

Founder of TruGov

 

Barry Jones has conducted extensive research into the background and issues related to the Seanad. He has written several insightful articles on the subject; these are available on the TruGov website. TruGov is an independent think-tank enquiring into the principles of good government and associated political reform, as a service to the people of Ireland. It is voluntary, civic-minded and non-party political. He is a son of the late Jack Jones, father of political polling in Ireland.

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