Voting No on October 4 to abolishing Seanad Éireann is a way to protect scrutiny of Dáil legislation and to ensure the upper house is reformed.
This is the view of Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames, who is organising a public meeting to outline the case for retention and reform of the Seanad. The meeting will be held in the Meyrick Hotel, Eyre Square, this Monday at 8pm.
The speakers will be Noel Whelan, barrister, author, political analyst, and columnist; Shivaun Quinlivan, constitutional lawyer at the centre for disability law and policy NUI Galway; and the meeting convenor, Sen Healy Eames.
Sen Healy Eames says a No vote in the October 4 referendum is a way to protect democratic safeguards in the Irish political system.
“The proposal to abolish the Senate will strip away the constitutional method of taking a second look at legislation,” she said. “This potentially leaves the State quite vulnerable.”
She pointed out that since 2011, the Seanad has proposed more than 2,600 amendments to bills, and of thes, the Government accepted more than 520. “This is evidence of the important role of the Seanad in amending serious flaws in legislation coming from the Dáil,” she said.
She also said a No vote is a positive action as it will lead to reform of the upper house.
“A No to abolition will ultimately be a Yes to reform,” she said. “The Seanad is in need of reform and I would propose this is where we should focus our efforts.”
However there are those who argue that Sen Healy-Eames and other senators campaigning for a No vote are acting in self-interest to save their jobs. The Galway politician has countered this claim.
“I can understand why one may think I’m just trying to save my own seat,” she said, “but in a future Seanad election there is no guarantee of my being re-elected, given my recent expulsion from the Fine Gael parliamentary party as they were my nominators. The Seanad is more important than any senator.”
Sen Healy-Eames is encouraging the public to attend the meeting.
“This is an opportunity to listen to and question two experts on the subject,” she said, “of the value of the Seanad in Irish people’s lives.”