NUI Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has today welcomed the Supreme Court ruling on the need to legislate for the seventh amendment to the Constitution and is urging the Government to enact the Seanad Bill 2020 introduced by Senator Higgins and Senator Michael McDowell.
Speaking after today’s ruling, Senator Higgins commended Tomas Heneghan for taking the case and said: “Today’s ruling underscores the urgent need for Seanad reform. That reform must be ambitious and comprehensive. The failure to legislate for the 1979 referendum reflects a wider history of evasion and delays around meaningful Seanad reform by successive governments over many decades.
“This ruling confirms that action must be taken. However, a minimalist approach to legislating on this issue would not be true to the spirit of either the 1979 referendum or 2013 referendum – in which the public clearly called for reform.”
“The Seanad Bill 2020 represents a practical legislative blueprint which would ensure that every citizen has the right to vote in Seanad elections – while also legislating for the 1979 referendum. For too long, the majority of the public have had no say in electing the Seanad and this urgently needs to change.”
“The Seanad Bill 2020 was collectively drafted by the cross-party Seanad Reform Implementation Group which was established in May 2018 and published its report in December 2018. Unfortunately, the Government has failed to deliver on the recommendations of this report and also failed to deliver on promises to address this issue as part of the recent legislation establishing a new Electoral Commission.”
Senator Higgins highlighted at the time that “the absence of any reference to Seanad reform or the Seanad franchise is a glaring omission from the mandate of the Electoral Commission.”
For that reason, earlier this week, Senator Higgins and her colleagues in the Civil Engagement Group, introduced the Electoral Reform (Amendment) and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2023 which would require the Electoral Commission to review the franchise and electoral system for the Seanad.
“When the 2013 referendum campaign was underway, those of us in favour of retaining the Seanad urged that we should open it, not close it and the way to do that was through broadening the franchise to every citizen.”
“When I spoke at the commemorative sitting for Seanad 100, I highlighted that too many people do not even have the opportunity to cast a vote in the election of this House, despite referendums where the citizens of Ireland made it clear they value the Seanad, and they want a say in it. Opening the franchise to all and passing the Seanad Bill 2020 is the essential test as we turn from the past towards the future of the Seanad.”