Senate to consider proposal from UL on extending voting rights

“THE Senate will today vote on a proposal to sit at the University of Limerick to discuss a motion to open up voting rights to the upper house of the Oireachtas to all third-level graduates.

“The proposal was initiated by the University of Limerick Alumni Association (ULAA) and will be put to the Seanad through the university senators representing Trinity and NUI colleges.

“Although a referendum was passed in 1979 by more than half a million Irish citizens, no legislation has to date been enacted to extend representation in the Senate to all third-level colleges.

“Duncan O’Toole, who heads the ULAA working group on Senate reform, said: ‘There now is a situation in Ireland where a democratic instrument (referendum) and democratic institution (Seanad Éireann) are undermined through political inactivity.

“’We accept and support the idea that Seanad Éireann needs to be reformed on a whole and we broadly support the recommendations in the Seanad reform report; however, after 30 years, we feel that we need to concentrate on ensuring representation of all the third-level colleges in Seanad Éireann and not just Trinity and NUI colleges.

“’We acknowledge the good work being done by the Seanad reform committee; however, we cannot afford to wait any longer to bring about upper house representation to all third-level colleges in Ireland.’

“The ULAA, he said, calls for support for the motion from all senators as a first step to reform the Seanad and ensuring that UL graduates are no longer disenfranchised.

“Established in 1987 by graduates, the ULAA creates a link between UL graduates and their alma mater. Membership of ULAA is free and automatic to all UL graduates.

“The motion down for debate in the Senate reads: ‘Seanad Éireann, recognising the all-party support for the report on Seanad reform, welcomes the fact that the indirect method of election by local authority members remains a core part of the new approach; believes that every qualified citizen should be entitled to participate in Seanad general elections and urges the Government to bring forward, as soon as possible, the necessary constitutional and legislative amendments to establish this universal franchise as recommended in the report on Seanad reform and; resolves to mark this, the 30th anniversary of the constitutional amendment whereby the people of Ireland approved the extension of the Seanad university constituency to other institutions of higher education, by having, in the University of Limerick, the first new provincial university, a special Seanad sitting during which the details of the arrangements will be debated.’”

[Jimmy Woulfe, Irish Examiner, 11 March]

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