Seanad Éireann CPP Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform

Chapter 2
Educational Institutions
2.1 (28) Athlone Institute of Technology
This Institute welcomes the initiative from your office to seek reform of the Seanad. Of particular
concern to us is the composition of the Seanad and the manner and basis of election. I have stated
publicly on many occasions that management and staff of the Institute are concerned that graduates of
the Institute of Technology sector do not have a vote in the Seanad elections. At the graduation
ceremony held in Athlone Institute of Technology in November 2002 there was 2,063 graduates of
which 1,122 were at diploma, degree, professional and postgraduate level. This represents a
significant number of graduates nationwide across the sector who would welcome and benefit from
representation on the Seanad.
The Proposal favoured by this Institution would be to have a larger number of Seanad seats available
to Education. For example, I would welcome nine seats, six remaining with the University sector and
an additional three being made available to the Institute of Technology sector. As you are aware the
IOT sector is set to move under the HEA in 2004 and will then be competing directly with the
Universities. As a result of this, appropriate Seanad representation is essential to maintain equality
throughout the education system.
In my opinion this proposal would redress the imbalance that currently exists and I am available to
discuss it further if necessary.
2.2 (29) Cork Institute of Technology
University representation in Seanad Éireann has been considered by both the Academic
Council and the Governing Body of Cork Institute of Technology.
Both bodies are of the view that the present arrangement of confining the electorate for the
university seats to graduates of NUI and Dublin University is not appropriate and
discriminates against third level graduates of other higher education institutions, including
those of this Institute.
The arrangements are also damaging to Irish higher education in failing to accord parity of
esteem to the technological and university sectors, and, indeed to all the institutions within
the latter.
The Academic Council and Governing Body of CIT request that in future arrangements for
elections to Seanad Éireann graduates of this Institute be afforded equal treatment with
those of other higher education Institutions in the state.
2.3 (30) Council of Directors of Institutes of Technology
Seanad Elections
 The Council of Directors of Institutes of Technology requests the introduction of
legislation to extend full voting rights, in the election of Senators for the current
universities Panel, to graduates of the country’s Institutes of Technology. The Council
supports the extension of voting rights to graduates from Dublin Institute of
Technology Dublin City University and University of Limerick.
 The current system of electing six 'university' seats to the Seanad is based on grossly
outmoded criteria and is at variance with the intent of the Seventh Amendment to the
Constitution, adopted in 1979.
 It is now 24 years since the passing of the Seventh Amendment, which specifically
provides for extension of Seanad voting rights to graduates of all institutes of higher
education, but the intent of the people's decision on that amendment has never been
implemented by successive governments.
 The European Union is currently advancing the concept of all three-year programmes
being at general degree level (part of the Bologna initiative). The new National
Framework of Qualifications under the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland
has proposed the title of general degree for level 7 in the Framework and it is
envisaged that current national diploma programmes will now be reclassified as
general degrees within the new Framework.
 Consequently, the Council of Directors proposes the extension of the franchise to all
those who have completed a three-year (or longer) full-time undergraduate course of
Higher Education in the State (or the equivalent) or who have acquired a post-graduate
degree in the State. The Council therefore is strongly of the view that the electoral
panel for the Seanad elections should include holders of post-graduate degrees, all
degree holders including those holding the future three-year degree and all national
diploma holders.
 Currently, approximately 80,000 graduates of the Institutes of Technology would be
eligible to vote under such an arrangement. These graduates play and have played a
key role in the major transformation of the Irish economy to one of high employment,
high technology and high productivity in the past decade. While it is not the intention
to lessen the rights of those graduates granted their rights under existing legislation, it
is wholly inappropriate that our graduates are specifically denied a vote.
 In making this request, the Council of Directors seeks appropriate recognition for the
graduates of the sector. The law as it stands now seems to be saying that an award from
one-third level institution is better than an award from another. That is simply not fair
and must surely impact on the perceived value of the qualification in both the
community and the job market.
 The broadening of the electorate can also have the effect of encouraging increased
numbers of young people to take a deeper interest in politics and community affairs.
The participation rates of young people exercising their franchise have fallen over
consecutive general elections and extending the Seanad franchise should raise the
political consciousness among young voters and will end the current discrimination
between graduates of different institutions.
 Should the overall number of seats from the Higher Education panels remain the same,
it is the Council’s view that new legislation should provide for two new panels as
 No of Seats
University Sector
Technological Sector
 The Council would welcome an opportunity to discuss this proposal directly with your
2.4 (31) Dublin City University
 The sub-committee on Seanad reform has indicated its intention to examine the issue
of ‘University representation either in its current or in an amended form’. Dublin City
University would like to take this opportunity to make a submission on this issue,
which has been a source of concern and anger to our graduates for many years.
The Unfairness of the Current Situation
 As the committee is well aware, on 5 July 1979 the seventh amendment to the
Constitution permitted the alteration of university representation in Seanad Éireann and
provided for the election of members by ‘universities and other institutions of higher
education’. This was passed with a ‘yes’ vote of 92.4 per cent. Since that time no
changes have been made to the electoral system for the Seanad. This has resulted in
the situation where graduates of Dublin City University (and the University of
Limerick) are discriminated against – being the only Irish university graduates denied a
vote in this area.
 Whatever recommendations the sub-committee ultimately makes, the discussion must
start from the basis that the current system cannot continue. There can be no valid
argument to retain a vote for the graduates of certain universities while denying it to
Maintaining University representation
 There is a clear case to be made that the historical basis for university representation
has passed and that in an egalitarian society graduates have no more claim to a Seanad
vote than any other section of society. However, while this point of principle is widely
accepted, the university electorate is now a large and growing proportion of society. In
particular it is a large proportion of the younger age cohort – a clear target group for
attempts to increase voting turnout generally. Furthermore, it has been widely
accepted over many years that the ‘university senators’ have made a very positive
contribution to Seanad Éireann in practice. In particular, they have been seen to make
non-partisan, expert contributions to Seanad debates. The continuation of ‘graduate
seats’, not withstanding the issue of equality of franchise, has had a beneficial impact
on Irish public life.
The Principle of Equal Suffrage in the University Seats
 Previous debates on the reform of the university seats have recommended either a
set of regional constituencies or a mixed system with some colleges getting a
constituency of their own and others being grouped into regional constituencies.
Such systems, based on regional representation or specific constituencies, would
almost inevitably recreate a system where some graduates’ votes would carry more
weight than others. For constituencies to Dáil Éireann it is now accepted (and
indeed required by a Supreme Court judgement) that as far as practical the ratio of
TDs to citizens must be the same in each constituency. This principle has been
taken so seriously in recent years that parts of counties have been “transferred” to
near neighbours to maintain an equal ratio, despite this being unpopular locally. A
set of university sub-constituencies based on regional groups or historic
circumstances will be difficult to achieve without breaching the constitutional
principle of equal suffrage.
DCU’s Recommendation
 Dublin City University proposes that the six university senators be elected by
PRSTV in a single six-seat constituency open to graduates of all Universities. This
is the simplest and fairest system, giving an equal vote to all graduates, while
allowing graduates of individual colleges, if they wish, to support a candidate from
their own institution.
Dublin City University
June 2003
Senate Survey Results
 Introduction
 The survey was posted in the alumni bulletin on Thursday 6 June. Currently,
there are 6,203 graduates subscribed to the alumni email list of which 292
responded to the survey. This is a 4.7 per cent hit rate (the average industry
rate for direct mail is 2 per cent). DCU has over 20,000 graduates.
Current Student
Total Number of respondents 292 100.00%
 Should DCU graduates have a vote in the Senate?
No answer
 Do you think the system should be redesigned to create one constituency
for all university graduates and increase the number of seats?
No answer
 Do you think the Senate should be completely overhauled and all citizens
of Ireland whether resident in Ireland or abroad should have a vote?
No answer
 Do you believe successive Governments have avoided dealing with the widening
of the franchise?
No answer 8
 Do you believe that university senators adopt a more independent approach to
legislative issues that party political appointees?
No answer 14
 Comments from graduates
The current system is undemocratic.
Not only should DCU graduates have a vote but also all graduates from
universities and colleges should have a vote.
Would this mean that a graduate with two qualifications (for example, BA in
Business Studies from DCU and masters from another institution) would get two
We should have the same rights as graduates from TCD and the NUI.
The Senate should be completely overhauled.
 Some specific quotes as follows
o “DCU’s alumni contribution to Irish industry, media, R&D and society should be
recognised with Senate seats. We have waited too long already”.
Mary Rose Crotty, B. A. International Marketing and Languages 1991
o “Under current EU policy, accountability, democratisation, transparency and
citizen empowerment are considered central. It is unsustainable to have an
elected body, which is not truly representative of those for whom it claims to
speak. It also flies in the face of history to try to prevent this progress. Ireland
has a unique opportunity, because of its size, to be an example of the best
practice in multi-layer governance and citizen participation, and Senate reform
would be a good start. Peace and security can only be secured through shared
legitimacy in governance.”
CJ Fanning, Masters in International Relations 2000
o “Remember Dr Garrett Fitzgerald and a committee tried to reform the way the
Seanad was run in the 70’s. Funnily enough this motion was not passed by either
House of the Oireachtas. It was the most radical reform that was put before the
Oireachtas to date. Although Dr Fitzgerald was not in government at the time of
the report it has been the only real report on trying to reform the Seanad.”
Damien Mc Glynn, Business Studies 2003
o “I am completely against this DCU plan to join a ridiculous archaic clique who
vote for a functionless and useless upper house. Similar houses have been
abolished in other countries to no detrimental effect. The Senate should be
abolished forthwith and the moneys saved redirected. Is this a DCU insecurity
issue that we’d even want to have a vote for this thing?”
Kevin Woods, MDF1 2003
o “We need to produce a system of election which achieves: 1) the current
independent approach with even less emphasis on party lines and 2) the
maximum possible voter access (i.e. not elected by councillors, graduates, etc).”
David Henegan, Accounting & Finance; 1987
o “The Taoiseach and Tánaiste are quite happy to promote all third level educated
‘Irish Citizens’ when they head off on St. Patrick’s Day trips and so should show
the same level of commitment when it comes to politics at home.”
Amanda Mc Loughlin, Business Studies 2003
o “ While not opening the Senate to universal franchise which would turn it into a
second Dáil chamber, it should be made more representative by the addition of a
Community Pane, elected from the ranks of community organisations and NGOs.
This panel would reflect community concern on social issues such as disability,
environment, disadvantage and overseas development.”
Ronan Fox, Business Studies, 1989
2.5 (32) Dublin Institute of Technology
Elections to the University Panel of Seanad Éireann
 DIT supports the concept of a ‘University’ panel, believing that it adds a very valuable
dimension to the current vocational structure of Seanad Éireann, and enhances the role
of the Seanad as a chamber of broad debate and of independent opinion. The Senators
who have been elected by the graduate constituency heretofore have played a very
substantial role as members of the Oireachtas, frequently expanding national debate on
issues of importance to our society which may not otherwise find expression on the
floor of either House of the Oireachtas.
 DIT notes, however, that it is now twenty-four years since the seventh amendment to
the Constitution was passed by referendum in 1979. This amendment explicitly states
that the graduate constituency should be extended to include not only graduates of
Trinity College Dublin and NUI, but also those of ‘other institutions of higher
 This necessary and important change in the method of electing members to the
University panel is required if we are to demonstrate clearly that all higher education
has equal value, and that every graduate who has achieved the standards set has equal
status. The state in particular must view the higher education sector and its awards as
equal, and there is no justification at all for differentiating between a graduate who has
been awarded a degree buy one institution rather than another. It is particularly
inappropriate that one of the Houses of the Oireachtas should discriminate against a
group of citizens who in every respect meet the criteria laid down in the Constitution,
which was amended precisely because that discrimination has been identified.
 A clear example in the case of DIT illustrates the ridiculous inequity of the current
system. A student graduating from DIT in 1997 may have been awarded a degree from
University of Dublin and therefore, as a ‘graduate’ of Trinity College is entitled to vote
in Seanad elections. However, by the following year, when DIT had been granted its
own degree awarding powers, a graduating student would have been award a DIT
degree but cannot vote in Seanad elections. This creates an apartheid not only between
graduates of different institutions but also in this case between those who studied in the
same Institute.
 DIT urges the Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform to recommend strongly that the spirit
of the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution (1979) be implemented as a priority.
 We propose that all third level graduates who successfully complete a third level
undergraduate course, with a minimum of three years duration leading to a degree or
equivalent (the question of equivalence will be resolved by making use of the scheme
of award levels of the New National Qualifications Framework), or a post-graduate
programme leading to a higher degree, should be entitled to vote all future Seanad
 It is also very important that the new constituency ‘boundaries’ for seats on the
university panel of the Seanad are determined on an equitable basis. This could be
approached in a number of ways but one pragmatic proposal would be to continue to
maintain two constituencies, one to include graduates of University of Dublin, DCU
and DIT and the other to include graduates of the NUI, University of Limerick and the
regional Institutes of Technology.
2.6 (33) Dundalk Institute of Technology
Please see below the following points submitted by a member of our Governing Body
 Points
The University franchise should be abolished until such time as all have equal
access to third level education opportunities.
If, however, it is proposed to continue the University/Higher Education electorate
they should make provision for those with National Certificate and National
2.7 (34) Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
The staff, students and graduates of this Institute would like to see a major change to
‘university representation’ in the Seanad. As you know, there are now several thousand
graduates of Institutes of Technology with degrees from the Higher Education and
Training Awards Council and its predecessor, the National Council for Educational
Awards. These graduates have no right of nomination or vote for university representation
at present. The adoption of the Seventh Amendment to the constitution in 1979 was a
major step forward in removing this anomaly. However, the intent of the 1979
constitutional change was not implemented.
In view of the new national framework of qualifications proposed by the National
Qualifications Authority of Ireland, I strongly recommend that any eligible graduate with a
level seven award (Ordinary Bachelor Degree) or higher from an Irish degree awarding
body be authorised to stand and vote in elections for tertiary representation in Seanad
2.8 (35) Higher Education and Training Awards Council (HETAC)
The continuation of university representation either in its current or in an amended
The council considers that Graduates of all Institutions of Higher Education in the
should participate in the election of these representatives on the same basis
 This may involve reconstituting the existing University Constituencies or establishing
new Constituencies
The Council would be willing to play an appropriate role in facilitating this by maintaining
a Register of NCEA, HETAC and other Graduates for this purpose
 The Council has on record the information in respect of NCEA and HETAC Graduates
and is currently in a position to undertake this task
It assumed that the definition of “Graduate” is as heretofore, i.e. primary degree or post
graduate degree holders from Universities and Institutions of Higher Education
The Council would also be willing to assist Institutions of Higher Education in Northern
Ireland in this regard on a partnership basis in the event that Northern Irish Graduates were
also included
2.9 (36) Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
Between 1977 and 1994 several thousand students graduated from this College with NUI
degrees as the College was affiliated to UCC. Consequently, these graduates were entitled
to vote in Seanad Éireann elections, as are all graduates of NUI colleges.
At the behest of Government, in 1991, discussions were held between MIC and the
University of Limerick (UL) as a result of which it was agreed that our students would
graduate with UL qualifications and we would no longer be attached to UCC. A biproduct of this was that our students were effectively disenfranchised, as UL graduates do
not have a right to vote in Seanad elections. This is an ongoing concern (our first UL
graduates were in 1994) and I consider it to be a serious infringement of their rights as
university graduates.
Given that the B.Ed., which has been offered since 1974 at the College, is of the same
professional standing as it was when awarded by NUI, this situation doesn’t make any
sense. Furthermore, our BA students, who have been conferred by UL since 1995, have
never been able to exercise the franchise to vote in Seanad elections as all other BA
students have.
We very much regret that this is the situation and would ask that the Subcommittee on
Seanad Reform would reconsider this within its current terms of reference. This item
would very properly come under No. 1 relating to the composition of Seanad Éireann.
2.10 (37) Limerick Institute of Technology
Further to my email of the 18th inst, the Governing Body of this Institute considered the
matter at its monthly meeting on the afternoon of the 18th.
They wished me to state that they were concerned that the Graduates of Institutes of
Technology had been disenfranchised from the Seanad election process for too long.
Their preference for the balance of representation is as follows:
 3 seats for the University sector,
3 seats for the Institute of Technology sector.
2.11 (38) National College of Art and Design
An Bord of the National College of Art and Design submits that university representation
should be amended to include graduates of Recognised Colleges of the National University
of Ireland in particular graduates of the National College of Art and Design.
2.12 (39) National University of Ireland Maynooth
University Representation
 The current position of two universities (TCD and NUI) being the sole source of
electors for the six university seats is unsustainable. A national referendum of many
years standing did so recognise the flaws in the current scheme and made provision for
change. Since 1989 two other universities have existed in this country, UL and DCU.
In recent years DIT has been accorded the right to award its own degrees, up to and
including doctoral level. State agencies have validated degrees from Institutes of
Technologies and other colleges for many years. Much has changed since the
originating provision for Seanad Éireann. Either all graduates, or none, should be
represented in an electoral panel.
 At the present time almost fifty per cent of the school leaving age cohort enter Higher
Education. When the present composition of Seanad Éireann was determined less than
five per cent of the cohort progressed to Higher Education. An increase by a factor of
ten in the number of graduates, and the fact that half the population will ultimately
hold Higher Education Awards, must surely provide grounds for radical reform. Two
options are apparent: either abolish the graduate panel or identify some method to
make it more compatible with the reality of enfranchising half the population with a
direct vote.
Representation for Emigrants and Persons From Northern Ireland.
 My comments on representation of emigrants arise from my research interest in Irish
emigration. It seems to me that representation of emigrants is flawed on at least two
 Practicalities
 Lack of appreciation of the nature of modern emigration
Practical Grounds
 Approximately 70 million persons worldwide claim Irish ethnic origins. A high
percentage of these would qualify for Irish citizenship under current rules. It would
not be feasible to conduct an election from such a panel. If the cohort is narrowed
further to persons born in Ireland, but now living elsewhere, one would be left with an
impossibly large population. It is worth remembering that during the 1950s and again
in the late 1980s people were leaving this country at the rate of 1000 per week. An
electoral register of all of them would constitute a marvellous tool for social scientists
but would do little for the emigrants themselves or for the Returning Officer for
Seanad Éireann.
 What purpose could be served by such representation? Could the stockbroker on Wall
Street and the homeless in Camden Town be really empowered by being represented in
Seanad Éireann by a graduate Pleistocene Geomorphologist from the Transkei in South
Africa? Such representation would be properly seen as tokenism designed to make
those who remained at home more comfortable with the fact that over the years
millions of citizens have left this country for a wide variety of reasons.
Nature of Modern Emigration
 Ireland has been defined as one of the most open societies within the global economy.
In such an open system flows of people, ideas and goodwill form the principal
indicators of successful engagement. It is to be expected that significant numbers of
Irish citizens will live and work abroad for perhaps 1-5 years. Are they emigrants or
citizens of a more globalised world? Is it realistic to track than for inclusion on an
electoral list, which is constructed on a principle of absence from the country of birth?
It might be more appropriate to establish a mechanism facilitating them to retain their
full voting rights for a period of up to five years after they leave Ireland.
 Indeed one might reverse the argument implied in the panel of questions suggested by
the subcommittee on Seanad Reform. Might it not be more appropriate to seek means
of giving representation to those immigrants who have settled in Ireland in recent
 In respect of the representation of persons from Northern Ireland I would urge the
subcommittee to actively explore ways of consolidating and enlarging this group
representation as a means of maintaining and developing the cross border linkages,
which have emerged out of the Good Friday Agreement.
2.13 (40) Ollscoil na hÉireann, Gaillimh
Reform of Seanad Éireann
 The University welcomes the establishment of the Subcommittee on Seanad Reform by the
Committee on Procedure and Privileges of Seanad Éireann and appreciates the invitation
from the Subcommittee to submit its views on the composition and functions of Seanad
Éireann. While the time allowed for making submissions does not permit the detailed
consideration by the major authorities within the University which the matter deserves and
which the University would regard as desirable, it trusts that these views will be of help to
the Subcommittee in arriving at its recommendations. In the time available, the University
has confined this submission to the issue of University representation on Seanad Éireann.
 The University notes that the current situation is that, of the 60 members of Seanad
Éireann, three are elected by and from the graduates of the National University of Ireland
and three by and from the graduates of the University of Dublin. It notes that, under the
enabling provisions of the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution (Election of Members
of Seanad Éireann by Institutions of Higher Education) Act, 1979, provision may be made
by law for a revised system of election of those six members, as set out in appendix. It
also understands that the number of voters on the NUI electoral register at the time of the
2002 election was almost 102,000.
 The University believes that the principle of formal University representation on Seanad
Éireann is sound and has proved of significant benefit to the legislative process over the
years, in terms not just of the calibre of contributions by such members to the deliberations
of Seanad Éireann but also in terms of the welcome diversity of viewpoint brought to bear
on the legislative process.
 With the transition over recent decades towards the era of mass higher education, that
contribution of graduates, generally to the economic and other development of society has
earned widespread, and indeed international, recognition. In particular, the role of the
Universities in the life of the nation and the contribution of its graduates to the intellectual,
economic, social and cultural development of society have been explicitly acknowledged
by the State in the Universities Act, 1997 (Section 12), in terms of the variety of functions
associated with the modern University.
 That expanded vision of the vital role of University graduates in Irish society is not only a
striking statement of the development of that role in the decades since the adoption of
Bunreacht na hÉireann, but also furnishes solid evidence and justification for continued
representation of University graduates in the legislature.
 The University is also conscious, however, of what has been seen as the anomaly whereby
graduates of Irish Universities other than the NUI and the University of Dublin do not
enjoy such representation, nor indeed do graduates of other higher education institutions.
 Accordingly, this University would wish to see representation on Seanad Éireann extended
to graduates of all Irish Universities and degree-level graduates from all the Institutes of
Technology and to earlier such graduates from the Regional Technical Colleges.
 As to the precise method of representation, it has not proved possible in the time available
to explore the various possibilities. Given, however, the very much larger constituency of
graduate voters if representation were to be extended in the manner suggested above, and
the correspondingly more diverse make-up of the constituency, consideration might
reasonably be given to an increase in the number of graduate representatives. In any case,
given that the graduates of the National University of Ireland will still form the largest
body of graduates within the proposed enlarged constituency of graduates nationally, the
University sees no case for reducing the existing number of members of Seanad Éireann
elected by the graduates of the National University of Ireland.
2.14 (41) Saint Patrick’s College, Drumcondra
Composition of Seanad Éireann
 University Representation
 This College would favour the retention of University Representation but would
suggest its extension to the graduates of the ‘new’ Universities and of all publicly
funded third level institutions.
 To illustrate the anomalies in the existing situation: prior to 1996, the graduates of
this College were entitled to vote in Seanad elections as their degrees were
awarded by NUI. Under the terms of a linkage agreement signed in 1993, St
Patrick’s College become a College of Dublin City University. The first cohort of
graduates under the new dispensation was conferred in 1996. They and all
subsequent graduates have been disenfranchised.
 We would consider the maintenance of separate constituencies for TCD and NUI to
be no longer necessary or desirable. We would suggest a single third level
2.15 (42) Tallaght Institute of Technology
The Governing Body of The Institute of Technology, Tallaght has considered your request
for submissions and wishes to respond in relation University representation.
Bearing in mind that there have been substantial developments in Higher Education and
that many new institutions have been established, we urge that the university franchise be
extended to all citizens who have successfully completed programmes of Higher
Education, which have required the equivalent of a minimum of 3 years full-time study.
We also urge that a single panel be created for the purposes of electing University
representation and that consideration be given to increasing the number of seats allocated.
We suggest too, that the term “University representation” be replaced by a more inclusive
term such as “Graduate representation”.
2.16 (43) Tralee Institute of Technology
The Governing Body of the Institute considered this matter and wishes to comment on item
2 “University representation either in its current or in an amended form”.
The Governing Body is of the opinion that this panel should be amended to ensure that
graduates of the Institutes of Technology are given parity of esteem with University
graduates in relation to their participation in and contribution to the Seanad. We do not
propose any particular mechanism for achieving this outcome, and would be satisfied with
any mechanics that ensures equity of treatment for University and Institutes of Technology
2.17 (44) University of Dublin (Trinity College)
 The comments outlined below are based on a process of consultation carried out across
the college in the brief period of time available. They represent a series of initial
observations: the university would welcome the opportunity to make further
submissions on particular matters should the occasion arise.
 Most of the comments contained in the submission relate to university representation
and to the manner and basis of election to the university constituencies. However the
views expressed on these topics are inevitably affected by a consideration of the
functions of the Seanad and the manner in which these functions are discharged.
The role of Seanad Éireann
 The existing Seanad was designed with two functions in mind, namely to deal with the
passage of legislation and to enhance the process of parliamentary accountability and
scrutiny (items 1 & 2 on the list provided). In 1937 the vocational structure of the
panels was an innovative and imaginative way of providing access to a wide range of
informed opinion. In practice, panel representation has been dominated by the political
parties, together with a small number of independent members from the universities
and from the Taoiseach’s nominees. The variation in the quality and expertise of
Seanad members resulting from this process makes it timely to review the composition
of the chamber.
 The case for substantial review is strengthened by the changes in the political system
since 1937. The most important and far-reaching of these changes stem from Ireland’s
membership of the EU, that imposes new demands on the time and resources of
Oireachtas members. These pressures have already led to administrative reforms, and it
is apparent that further developments will be needed to cater for the demands of the EU
as it continues to evolve.
 If it is agreed that a reformed Seanad should be given a more active role, notably in EU
affairs and in reviewing public policy, this will have implications for the composition
of the chamber. It is in this context that the subsequent observations are made about
the university seats and the manner of the election to them.
The value of the University Seats
 It is generally accepted that the university senators have served the nation well. Past
senators from the Dublin University constituency include Professor W.B. Stanford,
Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, Noel Browne, Dr Trevor West, Catherine Mc Guinness and
Mary Robinson. The all-party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution
acknowledged the value of the university senators by stating that ‘experience of the
Seanad as it exists suggests that the representatives of third-level institutions have
made an exceptional contribution’1.
 The university seats provide the only nominally independent senators, thereby adding
an extra dimension to the chamber. Independent members have played a valuable role
on Joint Oireachtas committees, where an independent voice can be especially useful.
It should also be noted that, although the social and demographic background of the
student population of Trinity College has been transformed over the course of the last
thirty years, the University of Dublin offers a distinctive and individual voice in Irish
 The franchise of the university seats is broad, with a combined electorate well in
excess of 100,000. It is estimated that up to 20% of the electorate is living outside the
state. The university constituencies thus reflect the Irish Diaspora in a way that is not
the case with any other constituency in the Dáil or the Seanad.
 Should it be decided to alter or extend the university constituencies at some date in the
future, it is imperative that the values outlined above be respected and retained.
 While the current distribution of university seats might be viewed as anomalous, the
existing arrangements have undoubtedly been beneficial in their effects. Not every
feature of constitutional government can be defended in terms of abstract logic.
 Within the ‘knowledge society’ universities have acquired a new and far more
fundamental role in the social and economic life of the country. The university seats
provide a route through which well informed views and ideas from the university
sector can be channelled into the public domain.
The Constituencies
 The university would not be in favour of single seat constituencies, on the grounds that
the election of each individual senator would involve a disproportionate degree of
organisation and effort.
 If the franchise is to be extended, the university would favour the creation of new
multi- seat constituencies. Such constituencies are more likely to produce a diverse
range of senators than a series of single seat constituencies.
 The university would not, however, be in favour of a single large constituency
encompassing all the university seats. Such a constituency would be less likely to
favour the election of independent candidates and the valuable link between senators
and individual institutions would be lost.
Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act 1937
 Two changes relating to the conduct of the elections might be considered:
 The second schedule of the Act, section 5, requires ballot papers to be delivered by
registered post. This has led to the non-delivery of a high number of ballot papers,
partly because electors are at work during the day and partly because of the
changing character of modern residences, the layout of which does not permit easy
delivery of registered post.
 The use of the ordinary postal system might be considered.
 In order to maintain and encourage the election of independent candidates,
nominations for the Seanad should have the same closing date as nominations for
the Dáil.
Second Progress Report, Pn. 3835 (1997), p. 10.
2.18 (45) University of Limerick, and the University of Limerick Alumni Association,
Postgraduate Students’ Association & Students’ Union
The current electorate of the Seanad’s University Panel excludes graduates of the University
of Limerick. Graduates from the University of Dublin and the National University of
Ireland are entitled to vote and stand for election to Seanad Éireann and indeed, graduates of
UL who received an NUI Degree also qualify to vote and stand for these elections. This
situation is both anomalous and anachronistic and disenfranchises this large body of
graduates from a University founded by the State.
We are therefore requesting the Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform to address this anomaly
by ensuring that the Seanad University Panel electorate is amended to provide UL graduates
with parity with TCD and NUI graduates in their eligibility to vote and stand for elections to
Seanad Éireann. It is suggested that this proposal should be implemented in the short rather
than long-term through the legislative process.
It is also suggested to the Sub-Committee on Seanad Reform that the legal age for
membership of the electorate for Seanad Éireann be reduced from 21 to 18, in line with the
electorate for Dáil Éireann.
We would welcome an opportunity to elaborate our case before the Sub-Committee and
answer any questions, which its members might wish to ask.
Follow-up from the Alumni Association
 As a follow-up to the joint submission submitted from the University of Limerick (on
behalf of the University’s Governing Authority, the UL Alumni Association, the UL
Students’ Union and the UL Postgraduate Students’ Association), I am hereby bringing
to your attention further comment from the Board of the UL Alumni Association
 At a recent ULAA Board Meeting, the Board agreed that it further wished to lend its
support to the whole area of Seanad Reform by requesting that in addition to the
expansion requested in the submission referenced above (to allow for the inclusion of
those Universities currently excluded, namely UL and DCU), we would further wish to
see those same voting privileges extended to graduates who are degree-holders of all
Irish Institutes of Technology.
 I am aware that the date for the submissions has passed. However, I would be grateful if
you could treat this communication as a follow-on matter from the Board of ULAA and
kindly bring it to the attention of the Sub-Committee.