One last NUI-related issue: the Seanad seats

As has been mentioned before in this blog, it is now more than 30 years since the electorate voted in favour of a constitutional amendment allowing the franchise for the university seats in Seanad Eireann (the Senate, or Upper House of Parliament) to be widened beyond just graduates of Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland. Over all that time, nothing whatsoever has been done about it (a kind of contempt of the electorate on the part of all political parties that have been in government in that time).

Now that the NUI is to be abolished, something will presumably have to be done about this issue. The choices are simple enough: (a) compound the contempt of the electorate already shown by restricting the franchise to TCD and graduates of the newly separate former NUI colleges; (b) against all the odds, do nothing, so that only those who will have graduated from TCD and the NUI can vote (i.e. only Trinity graduates in future years, with the remaining NUI graduates still voting but gradually dying out); (c) extend the franchise to graduates of all the universities; (d) extend the franchise to all third level graduates (meaning that these seats will soon have a constituency of about half of the entire population in Ireland and a good many abroad); (e) abolish these seats altogether without any other reforms; or (f) undertake a wholesale reform of the Seanad so that the university Senators (who are generally thought to have been very good) might find other likely constituencies.

Of course there could always be the option of abolishing the Seanad, as Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny suggested in his solo run last year. We haven’t really heard much more about that.

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4 Comments on “One last NUI-related issue: the Seanad seats”

  1. Aoife Citizen Says:

    f obviously, or abolition: making the membership of an oligarchy larger doesn’t make it any less offensive. It continually amazes me how many, otherwise reasonable, people think that extending the franchise to all third-level graduates is somehow a good thing, we should only retain the third-level constituency if a future reform gave everyone in the country a vote with more-or-less equal weight in one of a number of different constituencies, which might include a constituency for third-level graduates.


  2. I always liked the idea of a senate comprising a body of people from the professions, providing a balance to the professional politicians of the Dail (whose expertise seems mainly in the area of getting elected).
    It’s a pity political appointments were allowed to dominate the Senate (Eoghan Harris springs to mind). Perhaps senators from all the colleges wouldn’t be such a bad thing…

  3. kevin denny Says:

    The idea that I get a vote that less educated people don’t get is one that I find intrinsically undemocratic & objectionable. I cannot see the logic. As for an upper house consisting of us gentlefolk, it seems a bizarre idea.
    The NUI, like the Senate, is an anachronism. The sooner both are abolished the better.

  4. Jilly Says:

    The current composition of the Seanad is, as most people know, a result of the corporatist ideas of the 1930s, many of which were closely allied to some very shady political ideologies. Many of those who gave us the Seanad would also like to have given us the Family Vote (I always have to breathe deeply a few times after contemplating that one).

    It is absolutely indefensible and has been for decades. The entire structure should be reformed: some basic democracy would be nice, as Kevin Denny says. One person, one vote. It’s a crazy idea, but it might just catch on…


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