Referendum Rejects Fine Gael Plan to Abolish Senate

Parties with an authoritarian streak, like Fine Gael, need to be slapped down every now and then to remind them this is still a democracy, even if barely so.  Enda Kenny thought it would be little more than a formality to get rid of the dysfunctional, outdated Upper House, relic of a lost Ireland, where few had formal education and everyone respected their betters but Enda was wrong, wasn’t he?  It turned out that more than half the electorate do not trust the Dáil enough to let it govern on its own.  It turned out that over half of us think our elected representatives need to be watched, and who could blame us?  People don’t trust the Dáíl.  They don’t trust the people who put themselves up for election, and they have good reason to be suspicious, since these are the very same politicians who landed Ireland in the current awful mess.

It’s true that the Senate was conceived on grossly unfair lines, grounded in privilege, grovelling, obsequious and reeking of entitlement, but it doesn’t follow logically that, simply because we designed it badly, we don’t need an Upper House.

Senate whos who

Fine Gael tried to pull a Fianna Fáíl stroke by offering a false choice to the electorate: abolish the Senate or keep it.  They offered no third way: fix it.  And this is because they simply did not want the nuisance of having others looking over their shoulders.  Authoritarian movements like Fine Gael are never happy with that sort of thing, just as their crooked half-twins, Fianna Fáil, dislike scrutiny for other reasons, but now it’s back in Enda’s lap.  What are you going to do about this, Enda?  Having identified the fact that the Senate is ill-conceived and largely ineffectual, isn’t the onus on Enda to do something about it urgently, now that his preferred option has been rejected by the electorate?

Fix it, Enda.  Come up with a new plan for the Senate.  One that will get rid of the time-servers, the country ‘n’ western gobshites, the failed TDs resting between jobs and all the other parasites who batten on it.   Instead, let it fulfil the role that we in Ireland desperately need.  Let it be a house where real analysis takes place, where genuine expertise resides to counterbalance the plethora of ex-teachers and pub-owners who currently infest the Dáil.  Let’s have a Senate that can become an effective resource to help Ireland regain its footing.  One way or another, leaving it untouched is not an option.

Other countries have no difficulty appointing ministers directly from industry or academia, thereby putting people with real expertise in charge of their government departments.  It makes sense and it saves elected members from the accusation that they are no more than glorified county councillors, as most of our parliamentarians are.  There’s absolutely no reason why a minister in charge of, for instance, the environment, should not be a scientist or an engineer instead of a publican  with no knowledge of anything apart from pulling pints and talking shit over the counter.  There’s no reason why the minister for fisheries should be a person whose only skill is teaching the alphabet to four-year-olds.  There was no reason why the finance minister in 2008 should have been a barrister with not the slightest training in finance or economics, and yet that’s precisely what we got, leading to results that our children will have to live with.

We need a repository of skills and expertise.   We need a forum of people who can question the actions of the Dáil with some authority, and that’s where the Senate presents us with an opportunity.

By all means kick out the current bunch of cynics, goose-milkers and heron-stranglers.  Get rid of them.  Kick ’em out.  Get rid of the structures defining who is entitled to serve as a Senator.  Abolish the privileges and sack the elites.  Clear them out and then, let’s re-imagine the Senate as a place that can contribute vital expertise to the governance of this country.

Of course it won’t happen, because this is Ireland where they love to stick with the old ways no matter how failed those ways might be, not Scandinavia where they love to exploit new opportunities.

What will really happen?  Nothing, that’s what.  Dame Enda will probably go into an almighty sulk and choose to punish the Irish public for daring to go against his wishes.  He’ll do that by leaving the broken Senate as it is, instead of fixing it as it needs.

Now they’ll be sorry.

I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t feel optimistic about it.  We are not governed by adults.

9 thoughts on “Referendum Rejects Fine Gael Plan to Abolish Senate

  1. Good piece.
    But to not being governed by adults (and they are a shower of sickos), I’m afraid it’s a lot worse.
    If we were actually governed choice would form a part in matters, but the recent financial chicanery has shown exactly our position in the arena of choice.
    No, we are not governed, we are owned.

  2. Now that a majority of 42,500 voters has decided to retain Seanad Eireann the politicians need to get down to the serious task of reforming both the Senate and the Dail. I suggest the Senate be reduced to about 40 members, 10 to be elected by all graduates, including the Institutes of Technology. I’d reduce Dail seats to 120, of which 20 would be elected on a list system; the rest to be elected using PR in 100 single-seat constituencies.

  3. Should we not have senators elected by the people. One from each of the 32 counties every 4 years? Some criteria needs to be put in place to allow a person to go forward for election. One criteria could be that he or she cannot be directly associated with any political party. They must be seen to be leaders in their communities in specific disciplines. The remaining senators ( 10?) are elected by our Universities and Institutes of technology. A total of 42?
    Just some thoughts.

  4. “10 to be elected by all graduates, including the Institutes of Technology”…why can’t everyone just have a vote?Anything else is by definition elitist…

  5. The Senate has to be different from the Dail so that its members can bring a different perspective to proposed laws; thus some seats are elected by degree holders. But I’m willing to be liberal, and might consider novel ideas like one Senate seat being filled by the votes of people who have failed the Leaving Certificate, or another seat reserved for voters who are members of minority groups like Travellers, or Seventh Day Adventists, or gravediggers or people who have won All Ireland medals and Olympic medals etc.

    Send all suggestions to the Constitutional Review Committee, which I think is somewhere in Kildare Street.

  6. Who will ever forget the former air-head social worker who became the Ministress for Agriculture who supervised the abolition our sugar industry. Hence no native ethanol-biofuel as no-one grows sugarbeet. Subsequently became our Tanaiste (Vice Premier for you non-Irish). No , I did not make any of that up!

  7. angular, if memory serves me well. she allowed the most efficent beet production factory in europe to be close down. the figures used to justify its closure were 5 years old.
    following its closure, attempts were made to purchase it for biofuel generation. i think liam carroll bought the site to build houses upon instead. following an enviromental report, no houses could be build as the ground was polluted from years of beet production. i imagine its in nama now

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