I’ve just discovered that a referendum held in 1979 (32 years ago) which asked the people if they wanted to extend the franchise in Senate elections to include all third-level graduates was passed but never implemented.
I rang the Dept. of the Environment to inquire how this was possible in a so called democratic state.
Specifically, I wanted to know if there was any legal/legislative obligation on the part of civil servants or politicians to implement the will of the people as a result of a referendum.
The official I spoke with said, to her knowledge, there was no such obligation, that there was no time limit in which a referendum result had to be legally activated.
I took the following explanation of Article 46 of the Constitution from the Dept’s website.
Under Article 46 of the Constitution, a proposal to amend the Constitution must be introduced in the Dail as a Bill. When the Bill has been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas (Parliament), it must be submitted to the people for approval as a referendum. If a majority of the votes cast at the referendum are in favour of the proposal, the Bill is signed by the President and the Constitution is amended accordingly.
This is crystal clear; if a majority is in favour the Bill will be passed.
It seems the people who drew up the Constitution never dreamed that our republic would ever degenerate into an irretrievably corrupt state.
They assumed that political and civil service standards of honesty, accountability and professionalism would remain at a level that would not require every possible angle to be legislatively and forensically covered to avoid official trickery.
I’m getting to the point where I feel the need to take a hot, cleansing shower after every news report.
Dept. of Environment
6 thoughts on “Ireland: An irretrievably corrupt state”
The referendum was passed, and the Constitution was amended. But the amendment gave the Houses of the Oireachas the *power* to extend the franchise. It did not in and of itself extend the franchise. Very important distinction. That the Oireachtas has not exercised its power is its prerogative.
The exact wording added was:
2. Provision may be made by law for the election, on a franchise and in the manner to be provided by law, by one or more of the following institutions, namely:
i. the universities mentioned in subsection 1 of this section [NUI, TCD],
ii. any other institutions of higher education in the State, of so many members of Seanad Éireann as may be fixed by law in substitution for an equal number of the members to be elected pursuant to paragraphs i and ii of the said subsection 1.
Read the wording of the amendment, it says “may” rather than “shall”. There is no requirement on the government to pass legislation to realise the enfranchisement of the institutions, the institutions are not named (whereas NUI and Dublin University are) so there’s nothing legally wrong with the current franchise of the Senate etc and the expressed will of the people in the referendum was to enable a facility for adding “any other institutions of higher education in the State” so it’s for legislation to decide. If it was “shall” any institution under HETAC or FETAC might have a right to inclusion. The State has never acted on the option because of the pathetic Seanad Reform processes that have been launched.
As an Irish citizen graduate from the University of Arizona and the University of California, I am quite dismayed to learn this. I’ve long thought that (even within the scope of the Seanad’s current panel system) it was unfair to discriminate against third-level graduates from Universities in other countries.
Well, if the Seanad survives, perhaps I’ll get a chance to vote next time.
Wrong question is being asked here. The Seanad is a fundamentally undemocratic institution, elected by elites and with an inbuilt government majority. Allowing a few graduates from Limerick or DCU to vote is only an improvement in the sense that spraying perfume on manure is an improvement.
I’m not an advocate of abolishing the Seanad, but it’s problems are a lot bigger than a few discommoded graduates. It requires major reform, yet its a reform that could easily be achieved. The programme for government contains a plan to fix the presidential term at five years, with elections on the same day as local and European parliament votes. So why not add Seanad voting to the list, and create a democratically elected second chamber, based on Euro constituencies, elected on the same day?
I accept the points made by Keith and Major Alfonso but the fact remains that a democratic decision made by the people has not been implemented because of what I would describe as political trickery.
More like political constipation
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