What to do with the Seanad?

A correspondent to the Irish Times professes the opinion that Seanad Éireann, despite all appearances to the contrary, is a democratic institution, because some politicians who’ve been elected by everyone get to elect some senators, and some university graduates get to elect another handful.

Sorry, no, that’s not democracy.

For a start, just looking at the university panels – what’s democratic about a huge proportion of the population having no vote, and a small but significant section having multiple votes?

Seriously. I had coffee last week with someone who likes to study. Nothing wrong with that at all.  But they have three degrees – from different universities.  They therefore manage to have not one, but two votes in the Seanad election – one for the Trinity panel and one for the NUI panel. Someone else at the table has a degree from Dublin City University. No vote for them.  That’s fair?  Democratic?

The correspondent referred to above writes from Brussels. Assuming that’s a permanent address, then they have representation without taxation – while people living and working here have taxation without representation.  Not democratic.

The obvious retort is “Reform!”

But we keep hearing that, and nothing happens.  This report, from 2004, is not the first such report recommending reform – hopefully it can be the last.


This crack on my ass? For sitting on the fence.

The Stability/Fiscal/Austerity Treaty Referendum takes place tomorrow.  I’ve voted in, I think, six general elections and 15 previous referenda.  Plus some local and presidential elections.

Tomorrow will be the first referendum where I’ve been in the country for a vote, and won’t be exercising my democratic mandate.

Oh, I’ll visit the polling station, all right – but I’ll be spoiling my vote.  As some sort of pointless gesture, maybe.  But at least it’ll be recorded.

So why have I come to this (non) decision?  Because, I think, both sides have good arguments, and both sides have really bad arguments, and both sides have people campaigning for them who make me want to vote for the other side, and… well.  Let’s look at some of the arguments.

Reasons to vote for the treaty:

  • We will need access to funding in 2014 and we’ll possibly have to pay more if we’re not “in”.
  • It takes power away from our own politicians.  They’re corrupt, or inept, or constrained, or shortsighted, or only interested in parish pump-ism to get re-elected, or a combination of the above.  Even the crowd I normally support.  Taking power away from them and giving it to slightly less corrupt/inept people in the EU would be an improvement.
  • It makes sense that you’d force your politicians to live within budget, just like households do.  Or, more accurately, that you’d force your politicians to live slightly beyond their budget – because if the limit is 3% of GDP, they’ll use 3% of GDP.
  • Lots of economists reckon we should probably vote yes, because the alternative is probably worse.  Probably.

Reasons presented to vote for the treaty which are, most probably, bollocks:

  • “Market confidence”, “self-confidence”, “certainty” and suchlike.  Yeah, right.  We’re still broke, the dole queues are still increasing, more people are still emigrating – passing this treaty will not help that one iota.
  • “Respect” from the “markets”.  Uh-huh.  They don’t care whether or not we’ve signed up, they just care whether or not they’ll get paid.  And we seem determined to pay.  Even if it’s not our debt.  Even if they’re surprised when we do pay them.

Reasons to vote against the treaty:

  • It’s effectively unfinished.  We don’t know all the small print.  Why would we sign up now, without knowing everything?
  • We don’t need to sign up now.  The big boys, France and Germany, aren’t.  We can hold off to see if they sign up, and under what conditions.
  • Really, what is up with Article 32?  That’s the one that says: “The ESM, its property, funding and assets, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall enjoy immunity from every form of judicial process except to the extent that the ESM expressly waives its immunity for the purpose of any proceedings or by the terms of any contract, including the documentation of the funding instruments.”

Reasons presented to vote against the treaty which are, most probably, bollocks:

  • “It’s a vote for austerity.  And household charges.  And water charges.”  No, it isn’t.  It’s a vote for attempting to force our politicians to not overspend, which is just common sense.  And voting “no” will in no way remove or lessen the household or water charges.  There will be austerity whether we vote yes, or whether we vote no.

Other factors:

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel, Enda.  Our Taoiseach.  The man who says this referendum is more important than a general election.  And he won’t debate it on TV or radio.  To deny the no side a platform, apparently.  Cos that worked.  Or made any sense.  (Surely you want a really poor debater like Gerry Adams to be given a platform?)  The man is either very, very clever, or his handlers reckon he would have blown the referendum.  Either way, he has treated the electorate with utter disdain.  Shame on him.
  • Downright misinformation from Sinn Féin.  And others, in fairness.  But they’re the most prominent.
  • The government’s leaflets attempting to masquerade as Referendum Commission leaflets.

So my ballot paper will read something along the lines of “Maybe.  But not just yet.  Come and ask me again when we know all of the details, and when we know what the main financers of the ESM, France and Germany, will actually be doing, or not doing, and when we’ve seen some good faith from the EU via a write-down in our bank debt.”

Also, I vote for Dustin.

Enda won’t “do” Vincent

It’s nothing to do with the right-wing Catholics in his party (the anti-gay Creighton and the anti-“fornication” Mulherin), but Enda won’t “do” Vincent Browne.  Thankfully, he’s only referring to a live TV debate on the Fiscal/Stability/Austerity/Call-it-what-you-will Treaty.  And also thankfully, VB has offered to step aside, so we might yet get to see a leaders’ debate.  Just as well, as Gerry Adams also previously avoided a VB debate and Enda has been doing his best to avoid everyone.

So Enda wouldn’t talk to Gerry, at least in front of VB.  Gerry wouldn’t talk in front of VB either, but changed his mind.  As long as he didn’t have to talk to Micheál Martin.  And nobody wants to hear from O’Cuiv.  Which is perfectly understandable.

But really – this treaty is supposed to be critical to Ireland’s future.  “More important than a general election,” according to Taoiseach Kenny.  Despite which, Enda still said no, he wasn’t going to go on TV3 because of some remarks Vincent Browne made in the past (for which he apologised).

So either the Taoiseach is lying about the importance of the referendum; or he’s telling the truth – the referendum really is more important than a general election – but he ranks his own pride above either.

Either way – when presented with an opportunity to debate with Adams, who has never been stellar in face-to-face debates, why didn’t Kenny leap at the chance?