Friday, March 25, 2016

Seanad Musings

Cllr Mary Roche, Independent Candidate, Admin Panel, Seanad 16
Back in 2013 the government proposed to abolish Seanad Eireann in what they claimed was a reforming move. I and many others fought strongly against this at that time, seeing it as more of a power grab by the Dail to eliminate even the smallest amount of scrutiny or challenge from the Upper House and allowing them even further scope to rail road through their particular ideology. Large majorities lead to power abuses in my view and the last government was a perfect example of that. Not only did they seek to abolish the Seanad but they also - successfully - neutered the Dail and effectively through that, silenced the voices of the people of Ireland who have a right to be heard through their elected TD's in our parliamentary democracy.

Now, post election, the result of that bullishness is clear to be seen. The electorate are pretty nuanced when you really think about it. What are they telling the politicians to do? They're telling them to work together and find consensus in my view. This is pretty scary if you're a member of political party. They have never worked like this. Yes they get to take part in a few debates at the ould Ard Fheis but by and large the decisions, particularly if they are in government, are all made without them, by party aparchicks and advisers. All they are required to do is turn up and press the right voting button. Oh and maybe hurl a bit of abuse around our National Chamber in support of whatever leader or Minister might be up avoiding answering questions on any particular day.

But those days are coming to a close in my view. People are tired. Tired of struggling through such a negative and draining decade (almost) where the bills have been piling up, the poor haven't been protected and those in debt have been asked to bail out free market bankers while bearing the full brunt of their own negative equity or job losses. And they want these and all the other issues that have been building up to be dealt with, seriously, by those they elect.

So they elect a Dail which gives no one a clear majority. Which forces political parties more used to using their term in office to bombard through their own particular ideology aimed more at their own voters than the national interest, to think - for a change - about that self same national interest. This - if the parties actually act on that mandate - is a good thing. Potentially a very good thing indeed!
And so to (eventually lol) my running for the Seanad. It is an outside chance, no doubt about it. No Independent Councillor has ever been elected to the Dail on the vocational panels, from my memory but it sure does need independent voices. It sure does need to act as a chamber with the powers that it has, in the national interest. The electorate in this instance is the body of Councillors all over Ireland as well as current Seanad and new Dail members.
Traditionally, candidates travel the length and breadth of the country meeting as many of the electorate as they possibly can. And as you can imagine Fine Gaelers vote for Fine Gaelers, Fianna Failers vote for Fianna Failers and so on. As Liam (my other half) works away at sea - and is away at the moment and as my children are still quite young, I will be very limited in the amount of travelling I can do so I will be at a massive disadvantage for sure.
But this is probably the first time in history that Independents have enough votes - if they so use them - to elect independent candidates. I hope they will understand my circumstances and not hold me to that hand shake. We have important business to be doing and independent voices have a huge part to play in moving us as a nation forward. We have bigger things to be worrying about than whether someone drove 300 miles to shake our hands. (Which I haven't the money for either to be honest!)
For too long the party candidates have hoovered up independent Councillors votes - only to deny that mandate in the face of party politics once elected. Independents need to stick together not just in our own interest but in the national interest. In the interest of getting thinking, listening, doing people elected into the Seanad rather than just voting fodder, or rubber-stampers for the political parties.
So I threw my hat in the ring. I also believe that it is very important for women to actually put themselves forward for election. There is no gender quota system for the parties or for anyone else in the Seanad election. So we must put ourselves forward - and so I have done. We shall know the results of that before the end of April. Actually getting elected is, in some senses out of my hands. I will either succeed or fail based on those you have elected to Council Chambers across the country.
If, like me, you believe in proactive, strategic and just plain old good government  without the charade of the usual seesaw politics then perhaps you might give your local Councillors a call - or your local TD - and ask them to consider giving me a vote. Especially if they are Independent!!
Thanks all, Mary x 

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