Seanad Eireann – an outdated and unnecessary stumbling block to real and urgent reform – Daly.

The Seanad is according to West Cork Fine Gael TD Jim Daly an undemocratic, outdated and unnecessary stumbling block to real and urgent reform in this country serving as it does to prolong the amount of time involved in making new legislation.

The single greatest challenge facing this country is the creation of jobs and getting people back to work. As the budget approaches much debate centres around how much more can be taken out of the economy and from whom. Some claim the solution lies in a higher tax rate for higher earners and the introduction of a wealth tax. Others argue that we have an over generous welfare system and reductions need to be made in this area. We can continue this debate as a society for the foreseeable future but the only sustainable silver bullet for our current economic woes is to build on the success of the last 12 months which saw 3,000 new jobs created each and every month. As more jobs are created, Government revenues increase along with consumer spending and the numbers relying on welfare reduces. In simple terms there are more people to share out a smaller bill. Legislation is necessary to support and underpin the many new initiatives required to support job creation.

As a member of the West Cork Jobs Initiative committee, I have had occasion to visit numerous employers in a wide variety of sectors and listened and learned from these job creators what further steps need to be taken by Government to facilitate new positions in the workplace. Time and again I find myself being asked “Why don’t ye do something about ………” This question is repeated frequently during encounters in the local shops, bars, restaurants etc.

The reality is that as a Government we are limited in the amount of new legislation we can introduce owing to the limited amount of time available in any given Dáil term. There is a very obvious need for real reform of how our Parliament works and the amount of time taken to facilitate change. Having two chambers is an effective blocker to progress being made on a huge variety of urgently needed reform. Ministers who champion legislation have to spend countless hours in the Dáil and then proceed to the Seanad to do it all again.

Ministers like James Reilly tasked with bringing about massive changes in our health service is condemned in my view to endless needless hours in the Seanad. This time could be spent far more productively engaging in real and meaningful dialogue with HSE management to create a far superior health system in this country.

Ireland is one of only two countries in the OECD with a similar population size to have a second chamber. Slovenia is the other one. Indeed it is interesting to see how not one of the new countries formed across Eastern Europe during the last decade saw the need for a second chamber. These countries emerging from a communist regime and enthusiastically embracing their new found independence saw no need for an Upper House.

If a reformed Seanad is your preferred option then a Yes vote on October 4th will pave the way for this reform. There is nothing to stop a future Government putting the re introduction of a reformed Seanad to the people. Doing nothing is not an option. By voting No you are effectively giving your endorsement to do nothing and retain the status quo. I have not heard one single person express the view that the Seanad in it’s current form is relevant. Continuing to support an Institution elected by less than 1% of the population is not in the interest of democracy.

Throw in the savings of 100 million to be made during the next Dáil term, a sum of money which would build a new National Children’s hospital and I believe that a Yes vote on October 4th is in the best interest of everyone for generations to come.