In the end, absolutely everything is local

It has been interesting to monitor the reactions to Enda Kenny’s proposal last weekend to get rid of the Seanad (the Irish Senate). Although the Fine Gael party has now endorsed the move, this was not achieved without some heated discussions along the way. But amidst all the objections that have been raised, from within Fine Gael or from elsewhere, I am not sure whether the one from Senator Paudie Coffey was the strongest. Here’s what he argued:

‘But [the Seanad] does have a role at the moment. If the Seanad was abolished in the morning that would be one less voice for Waterford. I have mixed feelings to be quite honest.’

Hmm. You may try a guess as to which proud city Senator Coffey comes from. And of course I have no problem with a strong voice, or set of voices, for Waterford. But lobbying for Waterford is not one of the Seanad’s key functions. Indeed, if we look at it strictly, that’s not a function for the Seanad at all. It might, under its constitutional framework, be seen as a chamber that considers the issues of the day from the perspective of the vocations and interest groups that are supposed to nominate senators; or else we might say it should take a national perspective. But it is definitely not there to provide partisan support for Waterford.

Of course local communities deserve representation and support, and it is right and proper that TDs (members of the Dáil, the lower house) should take their representational role seriously. But in Ireland all too often whole national issues can dissolve in the glare of local interests. It may be that the time is now right for us to think again about how we give political expression to these. And perhaps the Seanad, if it survives, should be one place where there might indeed be ones less voice for Waterford.

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2 Comments on “In the end, absolutely everything is local”

  1. Mark Dowling Says:

    Well put – and a tendency which has led to the desperation exhibited by Ireland when faced with the loss of the EU Commissioner who is expected to do national bidding above all other considerations.

  2. Jilly Says:

    Yes, completely agree. I sometimes despair of the Irish electorate’s grasp of how the democratic process is supposed to work. Witness the alarming vox pops conducted in Kerry during John O’Donoghue’s recent expenses debacle. When asked what they thought of the issue of his expenses, voter after voter insisted that they ‘didn’t care’ what he’d done, because he’d always been great at ‘getting money into Kerry’. So in other words, a TD could have been doing almost anything (you really do wonder where they would draw the line), and they wouldn’t care as long as he was also pork-barrelling for Kerry. Shameful. Truly, we get the governments we deserve…


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