|A typical day of low attandence in the Seanad.|
Abolish Seanad Éireann- a Failed Elitist Undemocratic Political Entity!
The second chamber of the Oireachtas, Seanad Éireann, is an insult to democracy, is symptomatic of an abuse of power by political parties and a waste of the monies taken from hard-working citizens in the form of taxes that are supposed to be used to pay for essential public services such as health and education rather than to provide party apparatchiks with exorbitant payments.
The Seanad is structured mainly around panel seats for agriculture, culture, industry and other sectors of society. Yet as the Senate electorate consists primarily of TDs, senators and councilors, it has never reflected these social strata. All of the political parties have traditionally used this institution as a rest-home for their members rejected by the electorate or as a launch pad for aspiring TDs.
It has therefore been a toothless kitten for most of its history, providing senators with large annual salaries, staff and expenses during the years of the Celtic Tiger whilst having one of the worst attendance records of any political representative entity in Europe. A few notable courageous independent-minded senators have made important contributions that have benefited the nation. But these members were the exception and came mainly from an elitist university panel voted in by third-level graduates.
Only two pieces of legislation have been rejected by the Seanad in a history stretching back to its foundation in its present form in the 1930s.
As a result of the calamitous decision of the last government who committed the greatest crime in the history of the state by bankrupting the country and its future for decades to come in order to bail out unscrupulous private banks and foreign gambling bondholders, ordinary decent hardworking citizens and their families have suffered increased unemployment and enforced emigration. Those that are lucky enough to hold onto jobs are enduring wage reductions; increased taxes and decreased public services; the closure of schools, Garda Stations and hospitals which they are asked to suffer in a spirit of renewed patriotism in order to save the country from the abyss.
I have no problem in answering the nation’s call and making personal sacrifices to ensure economic and social freedom for generations not yet born as our forefathers and mothers did throughout our history. But I fundamentally disagree with handing over monies in the form of taxes to be squandered by paying unnamed foreign gamblers as well as political party senators; by providing huge salaries to individual property speculators in NAMA to keep them in the ostentatious lifestyles that they were formerly accustomed too; by allowing Brian Cowen, Bertie Ahern and former government ministers as well as the former financial regulator and other top civil servants, who collectively mismanaged the country and/or who abused their positions of influence, to ‘retire’ as young men in order to enjoy huge ‘golden handshakes’ and pensions worth up to 150,000Euro per annum for their rest of their long lives whilst they also continue to earn big fees from private directorships, after-dinner speeches and media work. I disagree too with former civil servants and politicians such as Alan Dukes being appointed to lucrative positions in state-supported institutions whilst still being allowed to draw down taxpayer-funded pensions.
The new coalition was swept into office by an angry electorate. When he took office, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny promised to implement a ‘democratic revolution’ that would sweep away the political cronyism of previous governments which had brought the whole democratic process into disrepute by awarding taxpayer-funded state contracts, positions on state boards/quangos, senate seats, land re-zoning and legislative bias that too often benefited property speculators, bankers and party members.
Sadly promises made are quickly forgotten as the government parties continue to look after the “old boys (and girls) network” rewarding discredited civil servants and party loyalists rejected by the electorate. At the same time the perpetrators of the crisis go unpunished and continue to taste the good life on the backs of hard-working taxpayers.
However Enda Kenny’s recent decision to keep by his pre-election promise to abolish the Seanad must be praised as a first step in fulfilling the promise of a ‘democratic revolution’.
Maybe there is a need for a second more accountable chamber of Oireachtas comprised of the different components of Irish society from the Diaspora, farming, business innovation, arts, heritage, education, social inclusion etc. Packed with party hacks and vested interests, this will never happen whilst the existing Senate remains in existence.