Posts Tagged ‘Dail’


 

On Friday October the 4th, 2013, the Irish people are being invited to cast a vote on two constitutional amendments.

The first proposal will ask ‘if you agree to the abolition of the Seanad’..The second will seek permission for a ‘Court of Appeal and other changes to the court system’.

In order to minimise confusion, we shall address the first proposal only, which is the issue of the Seanad, the Upper House of the Parliamentary system.

So let’s begin,

Essentially, the FG/Lab Coalition Government, are leading this charge to abolish the Seanad, on the basis of cost and efficiency. The Yes campaign claim that abolishing the Upper House will save 20 million euro, the No side claim the figure is closer to 8 million euro. Either way, holding the referendum is reportedly costing the taxpayer 14 million euro. However, the cost argument, is neither well founded, transparent, or accurately proven. Neither side has accurately produced figures in a clear accessible documented form, that will allow scrutiny by the very people being asked to cast their voice on a potentially massive constitutional change.

Nonetheless, let’s work with the Government line, that the Seanad is costing the taxpayer 20 million euro year on year. The Upper House consists of 60 Senators:

  • 11 nominated by the Taoiseach
  • 43 elected by five panels representing vocational interests namely, Culture and Education, Agriculture, Labour, Industry and Commerce and Public Administration
  • Six elected by the graduates of two universities: – three each by the National University of Ireland and the University of Dublin (Trinity College)

The No campaign have recently stated that over 500 recommendations, additions, and amendments to Bills, have been conducted by The Seanad since the formation of this current Oireacthas (parliament).

So using the Government (unsubstantiated) figure of ’20 million’ , that means, that each Senator comes in at a cost of 333,333 euro, or that each Bill has cost approximately 40,000 euro.

Alas, to use such mathematical factors would be to miss the point though, for the more accurate figure is the cost to the individual taxpayer. In a workforce of circa 1.8 million people, the Seanad works out to cost the individual taxpayer a very manageable 11 euro per person, year on year. (based upon the Government position of an unsubstantiated, or transparent costing, of the figure of 20 Million euro).

11 euro a year?  The price of a cinema ticket and popcorn? The price of a couple pints? Less than the monthly cost of a TV License? One fifth of one G.P. appointment? The price of a decent 12 inch pizza?  …….and we are being asked to abolish it on a basis of cost?

It is clear the cost argument just doesn’t hold up, when using the highest figure of 20 million euro, which by the way is 0.03 cent per day.

So it must be the efficiency factor then, surely…? Alas, as efficiency is more often than not tied to a cost coefficient this seems to be an argument with little legs to support it.

No,the elephant in the room of spin, (and let’s remember that when it comes to ‘spin’  the Dail (Lower House) appears to be streets ahead in this art, than the Seanad ever has been),  is the role of Democracy in our society.

Is the Seanad a perfect Democratic institution? No, not by a long shot. Is it a Democratic institution? Yes. technically speaking. Is its abolition a Democratic strengthening move? No, it cant be, when its purpose is fundamentally to be a watchdog over the Lower House, as has been proven through its debates, amendments, recommendations, etc..

It’s abolition will bring less democracy, and the Lower House will become less accountable.

The Government proposes to ‘replace’ the Seanad with ‘citizen committees’ when it comes to reviewing Bills, etc. Now, this may appear to be a noble exercise, however, firstly, we haven’t been given any notion of what these committees will cost the taxpayer, secondly, we have not been clearly informed of who will make up these committees, and thirdly, not one member of these committees will be accountable to the public. So we may in fact  be left with the vista of legislation being informed by unelected political cronies,..ergo, less democracy, unaccountable and uncosted.

Reform to the Seanad is definitely required, the removal of Taoiseach appointees, and the direct election by all citizens of the State, are but to name just two, although there are many more other changes to be discussed, albeit, we are not being asked to reform, we are being asked to abolish.

Getting rid of politicians because we don’t like them, cant trust them, have been ‘nailed to the cross’ by them,  or because it is a rare chance to give them a ‘bloody nose’, is not a very good reason to abolish a fundamental house of Democracy, they are reasons to exercise your vote to hold them to account at each election.

To put it into a contemporary context:

In Nairobi this week, criminals killed many innocent people, they holed up for a while, but were eventually removed, dead or alive, however the shopping centre was not bombed into history, just because it was an unsavoury place for a while….. its lower levels and upper levels were kept intact,

 

However you choose to cast your vote on the 4th of October, is your choice, all that is asked is at what price?

As shown, 0.03 cent a day will be your saving, if you choose to abolish the Seanad,

 

But at what cost?

 

Voice