Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Political World

New zeal for Seanad reform only comes after the death knell has already sounded

Published

on

World of Politics with Harry McGee

The argument for saving the Seanad is a bit like the way we tossed up the prospects for Galway’s senior footballers ahead of their clash with Mayo in Pearse Stadium two weeks ago. Deep in our hearts we felt we might just have a chance and you’d never know; the lads might just pull it off against the odds.

Meanwhile our heads kept on repeating ‘not a chance, not a chance’ over and over again – and so it proved . . . doubly so.

The same goes for the Seanad. We who write about politics for a living feel a bit of a grá for it, a tinge of fondness, a tincture of nostalgia.

When we take the calculators out, and run the spreadsheets and pore over the graphs with our cold unflinching eyes (well, shifty rheumy eyes), the case for preserving the Seanad becomes a far less attractive proposition.

It costs over €10m a year to run and doesn’t really do very much. If you wanted to be very cynical, what it boils down to is 60 underworked people campaigning to save their soft not-very-challenging jobs.

Since De Valera created the second Seanad Éireann when he rewrote the Constitution in 1937, there have been 12 reports recommending reform of the Upper House.

The last one was completed in 2004 by a committee chaired by Mary O’Rourke. Unsurprisingly, it recommended an increase in numbers, from 60 to 65. But it also recommended that half be directly elected.

Just like all the other reports, it was long-fingered. O’Rourke’s Fianna Fáil Government put it on the same dusty high shelf where its 11 predecessors had been placed by previous Governments. The Seanad had become like an overgrown garden, there all right, part of the house, but ignored and never really used.

And so the long tradition of inertia over what to do with the Seanad might have continued had not Enda Kenny stood up in October 2009 and announced – without warning – that if Fine Gael got back into Government, he would abolish the Seanad.

When I wrote about it at the time I said it was “almost up there with Donagh O’Malley’s free education announcement in 1966 or John A Costello’s impromptu declaration of the Republic while on holiday in Canada in 1949”.

Kenny’s announcement that night was so well guarded that it came as news to most of his own TDs and Senators. Many of the latter, while supporting Kenny publicly, have been fighting a quiet rearguard battle to retain the Seanad ever since.

The momentum for abolition really came when Labour came on board in the run-up to the election and made the same argument. Fianna Fáil also included the abolition of the Seanad in its manifesto but it’s beginning to do a reverse ferret on that also.

When de Valera reconfigured the Seanad in 1937, his most important alteration was to make sure it was shorn of its power. The first Seanad had been a bit of a thorn in his side, and had voted down several pieces of Government legislation.

The new iteration reserved 11 of the 60 seats for the Taoiseach’s nominees, thus more or less guaranteeing a Government majority. Only once in recent history – during the 1994 to 1997 Rainbow coalition – has the opposition control the Seanad.

Even when the government is not in control of the Seanad it makes little difference. The Seanad cannot defeat a Bill. All it can ultimately do is delay the passage of the law for 180 days, after which time it is deemed to have been passed.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Northern stand-off underlines President’s independent spirit

Published

on

Roman triumph...President Michael D Higgins meeting Pope Francis last week.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

There was a time when becoming President was like being sent to the Missions; one day you were here and then you were gone for seven years without a trace.

Patrick Hillary’s 14 years in the office between 1976 and 1990 produced only two particularly memorable events; a disputed phone call from Brian Lenihan asking him not to dissolve the Dáil, and a press conference to deny a rumoured affair of which nobody in the media had been remotely aware.

Otherwise, like many other Presidents, Hillary’s term was relatively anonymous, another prisoner of the very circumscribed Constitutional role of a non-executive president.

The President had few powers but the few powers were important: summoning and dissolving the Dáil, appointing the Taoiseach and members of the Government, as well as referring Bills to the Supreme Court to test their constitutionality.

It was the latter power that brought the presidency of Cearbhaill Ó Dálaigh to a dramatic end in 1976, when a Fine Gael minister Paddy Donnegan slighted him by describing him as a “thundering disgrace” after his decision to refer special powers legislation to the Court.

That all changed after 1990 with the election of Mary Robinson. She enlarged the role of the office as did her successor Mary McAleese. So has Michael D Higgins and while the office is in name ‘above politics’, he more than anybody else has stretched that concept.

Last week, I travelled to Rome to cover the President’s visit to the Italian capital, his first visit abroad since the Covid-19 Pandemic in March 2020.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Parties no longer getting their own way at annual think-ins

Published

on

Brian Cowen, Mary Hannafin, and Bertie Ahern at the Fianna Fail think-in at Inchydoney back in 2004.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

It’s Autumn and leaves are falling from the trees and blackberries are ripe and the party think-ins are in full flow. These away days for parties were originally to bring the parliamentary parties together after the summer break so they could regather their thoughts and come up with their strategies for the new Dáil session.

Then the bigger parties started getting guest speakers in, sometimes to give a contrary and unorthodox view on the economy or society.

It was at one such meeting in Inchydoney Hotel in Cork in 2004 when Fr Seán Healy of Social Justice Ireland addressed Fianna Fáil to explain to them that all the prosperity that had come into Ireland in recent years had led to widening inequalities.

It was out of that that the Inchydoney Strategy emerged, a reorientation by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of his party’s prevailing ideology. The Fianna Fáil leader declared himself a socialist at the Cork resort and the party began to promote policies in Government that were less about economic expansion, more about the social dividend.

All of this happened during the course of the Celtic Tiger, when the economy was expanding at a ferocious rate, and already beginning to show signs of overheating. Ahern replaced Charlie McCreevy as Minister for Finance (he became EU Commissioner) with Brian Cowen. The Offaly TD was seen as less ‘PD’ than McCreevy. Indeed, he had famously said of the Progressive Democrats at an Ard Fheis: “When in doubt, leave them out.”

That strategy did reorient the economy but it was probably too late even then. The Celtic Tiger was at its height and Cowen pulled his punches when it came to taking the hard decisions between 2004 and 2008, with a series of milk-and-water budgets.

The Fianna Fáil manifesto for the 2007 general election was great for the party to get back into power but awful for the economy and society. The implications were not seen for two years, but when the symptoms of malaise appeared, of course, it was far too late to do anything about it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Coveney gets the mood of the room wrong on Zappone role

Published

on

Simon Coveney addresses the Dail Committee over the offer of a UN role to Katherine Zappone.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When his time came to resign as Taoiseach a long time ago after a series of unedifying crises and scandals, then Fianna Fáil leader Albert Reynolds coined a memorable phrase: “It’s the little things that trip you up.”

An aide of another Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, once told me Kenny’s daily task was like being handed a skipping rope in the morning and told to skip all day. If he tripped up even once, it could have been the end for him.

I was reminded of all that while looking at Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, going through a difficult two hours (for the second time in a week) on Tuesday.

It was all to do with the appointment of his former government colleague, Katherine Zappone (who was an independent TD for Dublin South-West between 2016 and 2020), as a special envoy to the UN.

In the scheme of things, it was a relatively small matter. In the span of Coveney’s career – a quarter of a century as a TD, a decade as a senior minister – he has made, and been subject to, some major decisions.

Even last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin (of Fianna Fáil, don’t forget) made a huge effort to downplay this. His argument? Zappone was offered what amounted to a part-time role. The row over the appointment was a classic political “bubble” stuff. The reaction was overblown and melodramatic. And so on and so forth, as the Taoiseach frequently says.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads

Advertisement
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending