Sinn Fein in plea over Senate elections
Published July 15th 2003 in U.TV, UK

People in Northern Ireland and emigrants registered with Irish embassies should be given the right to vote for the Republic's Senators, Sinn Fein has claimed. By:Press Association

Following the launch of his party`s submission to the Oireachtas sub-committee on Seanad reform in Dublin, Sinn Fein vice president Pat Doherty said citizens on both sides of the Irish border over the age of 16 should be allowed to elect Senators.

``Sinn FÚin believes that there is a need for the complete overhaul of the Seanad to make it democratic, accountable and relevant,`` the West Tyrone MP said.

``We propose that it is transformed in terms of its membership, its electorate and what it is responsible for.

``We believe that the Seanad should be elected by universal suffrage of citizens of all the 32 counties of Ireland and those resident here for more than five years who are over the age of 16 years.

``Pending the reintegration of the national territory citizens resident in the Six Counties (Northern Ireland) would cast their ballot by postal vote. Emigrants registered with their appropriate Irish Embassy or consulate would be entitled to vote.``

Under the current system, the election for the Seanad takes place not later than 90 days after the dissolution of the Dßil.

The voting system used is proportional representation by secret postal ballot.

Forty-three members of the Seanad are elected from panels of candidates, covering five sectors - administrative, agriculture, culture and education, industry and commerce and labour.

The electorate comprises of TDs, outgoing Senators and members of every council of a county or county borough.

A separate election is held for each of the five panels.

The universities elect six Senators while the Taoiseach also has 11 nominees.

Last week, the nationalist SDLP said while the direct election of Senators would be preferable, it could prove difficult to operate in Northern Ireland.

The party proposed that Northern Ireland MPs, councillors and Assembly members should form an electoral college which would cast postal votes in Seanad elections.

Sinn Fein argued in its submission to the Oireachtas that the main function of the Seanad should be to scrutinise national and EU legislation.

Mr Doherty argued: ``Senators should be elected from sectoral panels rather than on a party political basis, with these panels representing the community and voluntary sector, culture and education, regional, industrial and commercial and agriculture and fisheries.

``In order to address the under-representation of women, quotas of at least 30% should operate across each panel.

``Now is the time to overhaul the Seanad as the second house of the Oireachtas.

``It is time that it is elected by people from across the island and it is time for its members to be truly representative of the entire country and not elites within it.``