On the 4th of October 2013, the people of Ireland voted by a narrow margin against the proposed abolition of the Seanad. The Civil Engagement Group firmly believes this vote did not reflect a belief that the Seanad should be left exactly as is, and rather a belief that while Ireland does need a bicameral system, the upper house should be fundamentally reformed to be fit for purpose, democratic and accountable to the public. Many members of the Civil Engagement Group campaigned vocally to retain the Seanad in advance of that referendum.

On the first sitting day of the current, 25th, Seanad Éireann, every member of the Civil Engagement Group co-sponsored the Seanad Reform Bill 2016 along with other members of the house.

This proposed legislation was introduced so early in the Seanad’s term to reflect the urgency and high demand for reform which was heard during the 2013 referendum campaign.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins and Senator Grace O’Sullivan represented the Group on the 2018 Seanad Reform Implementation group, which published its report in December 2018.

Among the reforms proposed on a cross-party basis by the group are:

  • Graduates of all higher education institutions will be entitled to vote in a single, six-seat, constituency – replacing the current three seat National University of Ireland, and three-seat Dublin University constituencies.
  • The 43 vocational panel seats will be opened up with 28 being elected directly by the public, and 15 by local councillors and other political representatives.
  • Each voter will be able to choose which vocational panel they wish to cast their vote in.
  • The franchise for Seanad elections will be extended to Irish citizens overseas and to people resident in Northern Ireland who are entitled to Irish citizenship.

While the Programme for Partnership Government commits the government of the 32nd Dáil to enacting reform of the Seanad there has been very little progress made by government. This latest report is the 14th published in the past 80 years setting out pragmatic reform proposals to the Seanad.

The Civil Engagement Group remains committed to reforming and empowering a democratic, transparent and responsive Seanad.

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