"Progress towards Seanad reform is overdue but welcome"

Seantor Higgins with her fellow Senators at the launch of the Seanad Reform Bill on the first sitting day of the Seanad
Seantor Higgins with her fellow Senators at the launch of the Seanad Reform Bill on the first sitting day of the Seanad

Senator Higgins welcomes the commitment from the Taoiseach this week to convene a Seanad reform committee. This move is long overdue but a welcome and much needed step towards a fairer and more inclusive democracy in Ireland. 

Senator Higgins has been a consistent advocate for Seanad reform and for the enactment of the Manning report; introducing the Seanad Reform bill on her first sitting day in the Seanad, alongside her fellow Senators. 

Then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny proposed to form a Seanad reform committee in Autumn 2016 and Senator Higgins was nominated by her colleagues in the Civil Engagement Group to join the committee and push forwards on this important issue. Although the committee was never convened, Senator Higgins has consistently raised the issue in the chamber and in her representations to the Government.

Recently, Senator Higgins made the connection between the celebrations of the centenary of women suffrage in 1918 with the need to continue pressing for increased and more accountable democracy through Seanad reform. 

Raising Seanad reform with the Minister of State for public procurement, open government and e-government, John Paul Phelan in December 2017 Senator Higgins said;

"Unlike other areas of reform, we do not need to start from scratch as we have a report that was agreed across the Oireachtas that sets forward very clear proposals. The debate is now simply around its implementation... I emphasise to the Minister of State that this is something which I believe many of those who voted to retain the Seanad want."

"I am always conscious that all Senators are here as a privilege because people across the country who do not have the right at present to vote for the Seanad, nonetheless voted to retain the Seanad as a signal that they wished it to exist to serve a function"... "To keep faith with that wider constituency we need to step up and say we are here on sufferance and a promise of reform and we need to deliver that."

"It is most regrettable that there is no supplementary register for the Seanad. It is unusual in that regard and very different from either referenda or the Dáil election. If, for example, an election had been called before Christmas, those who would vote in any of the university or other panels would have had to register 18 months ago. That is not right. We need to have a system in place. Practical measures are required. "

Senator Higgins looks forward to meaningful engagement with Taoiseach Varadkar and the Seanad Reform committee over the coming months to ensure that fair and inclusive reform is delivered. 

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