UCD Students’ Union Graduate Officer Niall Torris has asked NUI Senator Michael McDowell to meet and discuss reform of the Seanad.
Official lobbying records released this week show that Torris sought to discuss widening the criteria for graduates to be eligible to register to vote in NUI Seanad elections.Torris is seeking reforms which would extend voting rights to a “wider group of students, including postgraduate diploma students.” Currently, only graduates of NUI are eligible to vote in the constituency and must register to do so.
Torris also contacted NUI Senator Alice-Mary Higgins to request that she appear in a Seanad Registration Campaign Video. The records show that UCDSU hopes the campaign “would encourage UCD graduates and current postgraduate students to register to vote in NUI Seanad Elections.”
Senator McDowell has been a vocal supporter of Seanad reform. In June 2016, Senator McDowell sponsored the Seanad Bill seeking to implement the reforms proposed in the 2015 report. The Bill provided for the establishment of a Seanad Electoral Commission and the extension of voting rights to all citizens, including emigrants and residents of Northern Ireland. The Bill has not moved from the second stage since the general principles were debated on in October 2016.
The 2015 report stated that the present structure of the Seanad is “elitist” and one which “disenfranchised a majority of the citizens.” Among the recommendations, the report endorsed the continuation of university representation and the extension of Seanad voting rights to the general population. Currently, only graduates of the National University of Ireland are eligible to elect members to the Seanad.
Last year, Senator McDowell told the upper house of the Oireachtas that the government had “killed off” Seanad reform and that “government Senators have been assured it will not happen.”
Rónán Mullen is the third Senator representing the NUI constituency in the Seanad. Seanad Éireann is scheduled to resume on Wednesday 19th September.