Points made by Minister Bruton on RTE’s This Week re abolition of Seanad

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· Every family and business in the country has had to change and adapt and politics must too

Reply- Accountability, competence and secrecy are factors that bedevil the Irish political system. Currently, the country is rules in essence by the cabinet economic core of four ministers none of whom have training in economics and finance; none of whom would be qualified to apply for a job as a financial director of a major company but all of whom want to abolish the Seanad, which if reformed could have competent people elected to such a body to the advantage of the country.
In the UK, expertise in the Lords is used to address national problems and report on solutions for and against proposals and laws and hold detailed enquiries into national incidents and problems. The government wants to define abolition of a representative body as a way forward in a parliamentary system that guillotines most bills and takes its cues overwhelmingly from the permanent civil service or nods through European regulations without debate and dissection.

Pathetic really..

· Only two out 16 small countries in the OECD have 2 houses

Reply: There is no compelling reason why Ireland should imitate OECD small countries. Politics in Ireland is a participation sport and we are the better for it. IN the US, politicians have to persuade others as to the value of their positions to pass votes and laws. In London, ‘rebellions’ in parliament do not result in mas expulsions of MPs. Valuable politicians often end their careers in the Lords and don’t have to prove Enoch Powell’s assertion at all political careers end in failure. (I will ignore the rejoiners on Brian and the Bert)

· 1% of our population participated in its election

Reply: That is only true in the literal sense. Only just over one hundred people elect the Taoiseach to that post but thousands elect their proxies, the TDs. There are fewer proxy voters for Senate Panel Elections because voter turnout in Council elections is lower. But the universities have a large vote even if the electorate is elitist. ( Few claim that reform is not necessary). Thus that 1% claim is disingenuous and again is

Pathetic really

· 90% of Senators were appointed by politicians

Reply: Those politicians are elected to represent the people and the politician electorate is broader based that the TDs. So that is a populist barrel scraping denigration.

Pathetic really

· The Taoiseach’s nominee guarantees a majority

Reply: This is a statement of the blindingly obvious as if it is in the current context somehow a disgrace.

Pathetic really

· Last time the Seanad delayed legislation was in 1964

Reply: Well if the Taoiseach ensures a guaranteed majority to obey orders, is this point anything except predictable. How many amendments to Bills originating in the Seanad have been accepted in that period. That would give a wholly different hue to the above question and show the partiality of the comment.

Pathetic really

Reform

· This is about making sure that the Dáil which is elected by all the people is more effective.

Reply: All the people do not vote and are not obliged to as in Australia for example. This attack on the Seanad will not make the Dail more effective. Less scrutiny will lessen the quality of Law enacted.

This is not about making sure the Dail is more effective, it is about abolishing the Seanad. There is no guarantee that the outcome will be a more effective Dail.

So more distortion (spin)

· We need a modern one chamber parliament which is elected by all of the people

Reply: The parliament is elected by those who vote. Does that mean compulsory voting? We need computer screens in front of all TDs. Do we need much fewer TDs with a cabinet of advisors paid for by the public surrounding them? No we don’t, we can reform the Seanad for quality purposes. A one chamber parliament is not synonymous with ‘modernity’.

So more distortion (spin)

· The Protection of Life and Pregnancy Bill gives provided us with an insight into how legislation will be fashioned in the new reformed Dáil. There will greater scrutiny of legislation by Committees from the outset and outside experts invited in to inform debate.

Reply: Reminds me of quoting Lindi St Clair, the original Miss Whiplash. The refinition of abortion as non-abortion and the misuse of clear language to obfuscate was demonstrated many times in those debates. How were outside experts invited? Who decided ? How was the conflictiing evidence weighed? And in the end, a law about abortion used to expell dissenters via a whip with threats. Not exactly a template to demonstrate the attainment of adult autonomy through education!

So more distortion (spin)

· There is much stronger oversight from outside Parliament than when the Seanad was originally created in the form of Ombudsman’s offices and other bodies.

Reply: Abolition of the Seanad will weaken oversight. The Regulators need to be kept on their toes and the Ombudsman’s offices have complained about governments’ attitudes and actions on many occasions. The Seanad was not set up as a form of Ombudsman Service so why imply that it was?

So more distortion (spin)

· The easy option would be to leave the Seanad in place.

Reply: As if that is the only alternative. Have you heard of change and reform? A YES/NO option as the only choice. I am certain that Richard Bruton’s Belvedere, Clongowes Wood, UCD and Oxford education record precludes him from believeing this rubbish. So Richard, tell us in public that you believe this! I’d dare you.

So more distortion (even more incredible spin)

Costs

· The abolition of the Seanad would save €20 million per year. These figures have been provided by the Oireachtas Commission.

Reply: So representation costs? This is a disputed €20 million. I don’t think the cost is excessive. Costs can be better contained in any reform programme. Advisors can be made generic to all senators and form a talent pool by open competition.

Populist Rhetoric

· This includes direct annual savings of €8.8 million

· Indirect costs of running the House brings that figure up to €20 million

· When the upper house is gone, people and resources can be redeployed elsewhere.

Reply: How much do public enquiries cost? How much do your backroom staff members cost Mr Bruton? How well qualified are the political staff appointments? Why pay them so much?