Debate about Seanad Reform has become a missed opportunity

July 17, 2007 at 11:28 am | Posted in Statements | 1 Comment

I welcome the commitment made yesterday by Minister John Gormley to undertake a full review of the university registers for Seanad elections. However, Seanad reform needs to go far further than this and must, at the very least, include extending the vote to all graduates of Irish Third Level institutions. 

However, the endless debate about Seanad reform has meant that the main issue of the Seanad election campaign has been the Seanad itself. This is a wasted opportunity to address real issues of importance. Such issues must include significant political and economic reform. We clearly need far greater levels of democracy at local and national level and we need to re-configure our economy towards achieving social and environmental sustainability. We need to recover our concept of the citizen and place citizenship, with the rights and responsibilities that that implies, at the centre of our political and social life. 

In conducting a Seanad campaign, we need to stop talking about ourselves and start talking about the issues. Throughout the country, citizens feel that they cannot meaningfully engage in decisions which directly affect their lives. They have lost the belief that politics is a way of achieving real and substantive change. Vested interests seem to dominant public debate and decision-making. As I have argued throughout this campaign, the difficulties surrounding the Seanad are merely symptomatic of a far deeper democratic deficit and malaise.  

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