Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

The week the Seanad earned it’s keep

July 9th, 2010 · 15 Comments · Irish Politics, LGBT, Same Sex Partnerships

For years this week will be remembered not only by lesbians and gay men and their allies but also by Senators past, present and future.  It is popular to knock the upper house, it’s even popular to call for it to be scrapped. However for those of us who watch it on a regular basis it’s clear to see that many members are expert in issues and far more expert on these issues  than their counterparts in the lower house. They also have more time to think and to talk.  And for the past few days they have talked about love, about lesbians and gay men, about children, and living and let living.

It was far more powerful and meaningful than the Dáil debate and that was after a good quality debate at all stages in the lower house. The presence of opponents to the Civil Partnership Bill and the delaying tactics they used may have helped in terms of increasing the quality of the debate but even before it got testy there were some very moving second stage debates with 28 speakers (far more that the Dáil).

According to the authorities in the Oireachtas more people watched the Seanad online this week than ever before. It was an education for many and some may still not understand why a second house is needed and or what was actually taking place. But largely the debates were accessible and the members talked about things in human terms. And that maybe is what the role of the Seanad should be in the future – people elected by a wider electorate together with representatives of nominated bodies talking about the human and real face of legislation and probing and searching for answers and solutions. It should not be a mini-Dáil, a training ground for political pups or a retirement ground for the older mutts.

There is a lot written about Seanad Reform and many reports have been compiled. But it will be a long time before a debate such as the Civil Partnership Bill will take place again and the Seanad may not have that long to wait if Enda Kenny get’s his way and scraps it.  Senators were also engaged online during the debate and I saw comments from a few that they felt pressure from being watched by people who were instantly reviewing online.  This should always be the case. And if there is a wider electorate and more ownership of the upper house then the quality of the debate can only continue to improve.

As someone who regularly watches Seanad debates online this was a fine day and I’m sure we’ll be hearing about it for a long time. (Donie Cassidy must be thrilled!)  I’m happy with the results of the debate and the forthcoming legislation (and retain some reservations on the effects on low income and unwaged people), but I feel it important to mention the contributions of  Senators like Fiona O’Malley, (great chairing!) Lisa MacDonald, Geraldine Feeney, Jerry Buttimer and Ivana Bacik.   Three cheers also to David Norris for being David, witty, sharp and nearly outrageous but also speaking very movingly.  And a mention for Jim Walsh for his good wishes to lesbians and gay men in his speech at the end of the bill – this was very big of him given his fierce opposition to the bill and it won’t have been easy.

I got through all of that without mentioning Ronan Mullen eh?  The next Seanad election on the NUI panel will be interesting. Maybe a florist can send him some flowers 🙂  Wouldn’t have been so good without him either but not in the way he would appreciate.



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