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Monday 2 September 2013

Seanad Referendum Details

The government of Ireland has proposed abolishing the Seanad the upper house of the parliament, and referendum will be held on it on the 4th of October 2013.

Two issues have come up that I want to clearer details on.

Details of amendments the Seanad made to bills.

The anti-abolishment side keeps citing the number 529 amendments made to bills (or '523 amendments' or 'over 540 amendments') which they seem to have sourced from Senator Daragh O'Brien who was first to use this stat, as far as I know, on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 and a number of others senators who raised it in the Seanad. I emailed them last week to ask for the list and contacted everyone who used that stat to ask them to get the list behind the number but haven't been able to get anyone to get the list of amendments published.

Some criticised Regina Doherty for asking for this list in the Dail but the list already exists Senator Zappone has read it. Zappone: Wednesday, 17 July 2013

I note Senator Zappone says the list is incomplete but it would be a start and beneficial to all sides in the debate to publish it.

Update: Senator Zappone wrote an column for the Sunday Business Posts about the Seanad abolishment or reform, which she posted on her site. She emphases that they haven't been tracking the number of amendments and list is incomplete but she says she got the number from the Oireachtas Library & Research Service

Update 2 Amount of Amendments tabled by members of the Seanad on 14 Bills

I was hoping for an actual list of amendments, they must actually list every amendment when counting because how else are they sure they are not double counting.

so why was this information unavailable when Regina Doherty asked for it? She wasn't asking for exactly the same info but it was over lapping but she was told to PFO by a number of ministers and various people mocked her and told her she was wasting money, bizarre.

Katherine Zappone's Oireachtas Research sourced list is entitled 'Amendments Made By the Seanad' but then says 'members of the Seanad have tabled 529 amendments to 14 Bills' Democracy Matters then put up the list but says its amendments made.

I compared the two sources of info the Minsiterial replies and the Oireachtas Research list and the only Bill that both refer to is the Credit Union Bill 2012 which had 174 Government amendments at Committee Stage according to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and 6 more at Report Stage. and the Oireachtas Research Lists 179 amendments in total, close enough.

Will money be saved or go to the committees.

Senator John Crown has raised the point several times that as opposed to the pro-referendum side assertion that abolishing the Seanad will save (a disputed amount of) money that this saving will not reduce the cost to the public of government administration or be used for some other worthy cause but be redeployed to the beef up the committee systems part in reviewing legislation, as proposed by the government.

He has said this over a year ago,

and last week,

he says he said it "in this Chamber in 2011, again on RTE and more recently in a private conversation with me" but he never provided a link to confirm it so I can point people to where Brendan Howlin said it, I emailed him to ask him if could provide links but have gotten no reply, I cannot find where he said it after hours of searching either in Seanad record or 'on the radio' on the 25th of June 2013, can you help me find it in the Seanad record, search via Kildarestreet.com or the Oireachtas record.

His first tweet about it was on the 25th of August so this was before the debate on the Houses of the Oireachtas Inquiries - 22 September 2011 which I had thought was the most likley time this topic would come up.

Although checking the Senator attendance record he is not listed as being present on the 22 of September but is listed for the 29th of June.

The other time Minister Brendan Howlin spoke in 2011 in the Seanad was the Second stage or the Committee Stage and Remaining Stages of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011.

I've used Kildarestreet.com to search for every time Brendan Howlin spoke in the Seanad in 2011, which was as far as I know 3 occasions and then listed them in spreadsheet


Senator John Crown got back to me via @ItsMoss


Senator Crown said in Seanad that Howlin said this on the radio on 25th June, I asked him about this and he said he thought it was RTE in the morning, I listened to Morning Ireland for the 25th of June where there was a brief clip from Brendan Howlin but he didn't mention the Seanad.

Found one
I used Topsy.com to search for @profjohncrown tweeting about Howlin on the 25th of June 2013.

Tweeting just after the six news this interview must be what he had heard and reacted to.

Brendan Howlin was on RTE 6.1 TV news on the 25th June news talking about the Anglo tapes and the need for a banking inquiry, at 3 minutes 50 seconds he mentions the Seanad abolition.
"...we need to provide the resources and part of the reform we want of public administration in this country and part of the recommendation to have a single chamber is to have the resources, the capacity and the ability of parliament to do the people's business."
Minister Brendan Howlin does seem to be suggesting that without a second a chamber those resources will be for the rest of parliament including the committees and the new form of inquires.

Still want to find the Seanad quote its probably somewhere in the record for the 3 times he spoke in the Seanad in 2011.

Having found one quote I'm using the phrases he used to search the Oireachtas record, I found Making Committees Work in the 31st Dail: Statements - March 2011 although its was said in the Dail, so maybe not the quote Senator John Crown was talking about.

Brendan Howlin: "This is the principle that underpins the Government's proposal to abolish the Seanad. It is not a knee-jerk reaction to the need for cost savings or demands for reform or smaller government. It is about strengthening democracy itself."

Minister Brendan Howlin mentions the Seanad and committees and resources during the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill 2013
Brendan Howlin: "If we are to convince people to vote for the Seanad’s abolition... ...That means we must have better and stronger committee systems that are clearly resourced. As the Minister charged with resources"

Minister Brendan Howlin cites the position paper he co-wrote and published in January 2011 as part of their elections proposals New Government Better Government. New Government, Better Government as where he firmed his reasoning.


Got an email from Senator John Crown's secretary with quotes of Howlin from two committees in 2011 and 2013,
Joint Committee on Investigations, Oversight and Petitions Debate - 15th December 2011 Video or Video
Brenadan Howlin: ...but if we were in a unicameral situation, resources might become available for empowering Dáil committees in a way that they are not currently available. I do not want to be facetious about it. I expect a proposition will be put to the people next year in relation to the abolition of the Seanad. In such circumstances, we will have to look at how the Dáil might work differently. I think the committees would have to be resourced in a much clearer way.

Wednesday Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform Debate - 5th June 2013 Video

As part of a reform agenda and if people determine we must have a unicameral system, there should be a much more robust Dáil system and a better resourced committee system

The Oireachtas video playback system is nightmare to use, it very hard to find the section of speech your looking for and I tried to embed the videos here, but it hard to get wmv to work the same on all browsers, it seem link to the same start times in video will somehow play different parts of the video.

Two simple things but I'm puzzled as to why they haven't been cleared up and its been like banging my head off a wall to get anybody to respond to these two very simple requests, so I thought I'd spell it out here to see if this got any response.

I follow up on this is a new blogpost