The debate, so far as there was one, on Enda Kenny’s proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann was so boring!
Enda didn’t even bother to take part himself. The debate was more boring than a Sunday morning in Belfast. It was more boring than a big bag of boring things.
We thought the referendum was a foregone conclusion. The Seanad seemed to be heading for the scrap heap. Reporters struggled to find anyone with a good word to say about the upper chamber. They had to find a university professor to balance things even a little.
What a shock we got when the result was announced! The proposal was defeated by a margin of three and a half per cent. The Taoiseach’s ill-thought-out plan was undone by a low turnout.
The boring, low-key debate had produced a “wallop” for Enda. The electorate are smarter than they’re given credit for.
Those who could see the Seanad’s value were more inclined to vote than those who ignorantly dismissed it as a waste of money.
I’m glad. Like many people I struggled to muster any interest in the campaign but I’m relieved by the result.
Ireland needs sophisticated government more than it needs simple government. We don’t want even more power in the hands of relatively few political families. Ever since independence, real power has tended to rest in the hands of the families at the top of their respective parties. They’re more or less dynasties. Many TDs seem to have inherited party nominations for their fathers’ seats.
Of course the Seanad needs reform. It could easily be made much more democratic. It shouldn’t be a reward, like England’s House of Lords, for the party faithful on retirement or on being defeated at the polls. That could easily be fixed if the political will existed.
But even with its deficiencies, Seanad Éireann provides representation for minorities and a level of intelligent scrutiny that isn’t readily available in the lower chamber.
For now, graduates of the National University of Ireland and Dublin University will retain their right to vote in Seanad elections. (I have a vote as do many fellow graduates living here. If university seats are to be retained, the constituencies should at least be widened to include the newer universities.)
Meanwhile, politics can be pretty boring here in the North as well. Maybe it’s may be a sign of normalisation. It does, however, have some unfortunate consequences. Three thousand attempts were made to access pornography on Stormont’s computers in six months.
That’s an average of 16 attempts a day by MLAs or their staff, although they were all blocked by the system.
“…Satan finds some mischief still, for idle hands to do,” wrote Isaac Watts. As he died in 1748 he didn’t have our Assembly in mind but he may have, if he’d still been around.
We know that no DUP people would have been trying to get to these websites. Don’t we? Well, they’re the champions of righteousness, after all.
As another 18th century English writer (Viscount Bolingbroke) said, “The greatest art of a politician is to render vice serviceable to the cause of virtue”.
Ah, that’ll be why they’re looking for pornography.