The Integration Centre calls for Seanad Reform, Not Abolition

The Integration Centre has asked people to reflect on the role the Seanad has played over the years in providing a voice to minorities in the country who have struggled to be represented in the Dáil, before voting in this Friday’s (04/10/13) referendum.

While acknowledging the shortcomings and the historical ineffectiveness of the Seanad, CEO of The Integration Centre, Killian Forde, pointed out that “There have been numerous cases whereby the political debate on unpopular or difficult political issues have been pioneered in the Seanad by dissenting voices. Policies which were originally considered either heretical or absurd at the time of debate in the Seanad became accepted and legislated for shortly after.”

Forde pointed out prominent examples including “Former President and Senator Mary Robinson’s attempts to secure sensible family planning; Senator Morris debating for gay rights; Ex-Senator Wilson on the need to have a peace and reconciliation process – all these people were instrumental in raising issues which went against the grain of thinking in mainstream politics at the time.

“Sometimes we do not realise the value of something until it is gone”.

Forde believes that “a reformed Seanad affords an opportunity to ensure that people who would otherwise find it very difficult, or impossible, to get elected to the Dáil, would have a legislative voice. It is a long, time-consuming journey for many who take the decision to run for local election and who may eventually end up in the Dáil. Most of the people who do make it are middle-aged, straight, white, Irish, middle-class, Catholic and male. In addition certain professions are overrepresented.”

Forde added that “Diversity of opinion and ideas is vital; it challenges group-think and destructive consensus. The Integration Centre feels that a reformed Seanad is the best option: refreshed institutions that could include voices from, amongst others, the migrant community who make up some 12% of our population but who are almost invisible in the power structures of the country.”

The Integration Centre is encouraging people to vote NO on Friday.



The Integration Centre is a non-governmental organisation which is committed to the integration and inclusion of people from immigrant backgrounds in Ireland. The Centre specialises in planning, monitoring and advocacy at city, local, national and international levels. Evidence-based research influences positive change in legislation, policy and practice. We have more than 250 affiliated organisations as part of our network.

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