So, the Seanad survived the chop, the people have spoken or to be more exact around 40 per cent of them have. The right to vote and shape the future of our country is something that was struggled for for hundreds of years, but when two questions to shape the future direction of democracy and the legal setup of the nation was asked, 60 per cent of the people didn't even bother to show up and have their say.
So what do people want? do they want reform or do they want, what some see as an elite, outdated second chamber that both sides of the argument seem to agree isn't working as it should to stay. The winning “no” side can say that it's a vote for reform of the upper house from the people. But is it really a vote for that, when six out ever ten people eligible to vote, didn't even bother having a say on the issue. It would have been the same if the “yes” side had won. The people have spoken, well as I said some of the people have spoken, the majority of people it seems aren't too bothered.
There are various ideas to reform the second house floating about and seeing as it's staying, the government really have to look at those ideas and bills seriously and put some kind of meaningful reform in train and get the Seannad working in a better way than it currently is. Extending the franchise to more people is something that has to be done, the current set up of letting graduates of the National University of Ireland elect three and the University of Dublin (Trinity College ) elect three is just one of the most glaringly obvious things to change. It disenfranchises an enormous number of graduates from the other universities and institutes of technology in the country. Never mind everyone else who never got the chance to attend one of these universities, but want to have a say on who sits in the upper house. But even if the franchise is extended, will people bother to turn out and vote? We'll have to wait and see.
There have been calls in the recent past to give Irish people not living in the country a vote in elections, it's a noble cause with plenty of merit, but when we can't even get the majority people who live in the country to get to the polls to cast their vote on constitutional issues, we have to look to home first. Is it time that it is set in stone that all elections and refrendums are carried out on Saturday to ensure that students and those working away from home in the country are able to come home and have their say? It would seem like a good idea, and it was also negate the need for schools to close on a Friday if they are used as polling stations and not force hard pressed parents into arranging and often paying someone to take care of their children if they are working.
Apathy around politics and politicians is rife in this country, it seems. People will sing from the rooftops about the way the country is being ran and how cuts in services and increases in taxation are effecting them, which they are each and everyone of us, each week. They'll write letters to newspapers, hold court on bar stools and around coffee shop tables, but it seems they don't bother to come out and vote on changing the most important document in Irish law. Last Friday's referendum had a national turn out of just over 39 per cent, while the 2012 referendum on Children's rights had an even lower turn out of 33.5 per cent. Do we want reform or do we just not care?