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History & Policy: Seanad Special

The purpose of this series of papers is to offer a constructive dialogue between history – understood as both ‘the past’ and ‘the discipline’ – and policy. History Hub does not advocate either a yes or no vote. We simply hope that by offering a historical perspective to the issue, a more informed national conversation can take place.

On 4 October 2013, Irish citizens will vote on whether to retain Seanad Éireann or abolish it. If the referendum is passed, the Seanad will be abolished after the next General Election. This would mean that, in future, laws would have to be passed only by Dáil Éireann, before being sent to the President to be signed.

The debates surrounding the Seanad referendum are notable for their lack of engagement with history. History remains an under-used resource for informing contemporary policy. Active citizenship in a purposeful democracy is in much greater need of critical historical knowledge than is generally recognised. Again and again, complex policy issues are placed before the public without sufficient explanation of how they have come to assume their present shape, and without any reference to the alternatives that were available. The purpose of this series of papers is to offer a constructive dialogue between history – understood as both ‘the past’ and ‘the discipline’ – and policy. History Hub does not advocate either a yes or no vote. We simply hope that by offering a historical perspective to the issue, a more informed national conversation can take place.

Paper 1: Other voices: historical precedents and modern propositions for Ireland’s upper house by Conor Mulvagh (UCD & DIFP).

Paper 2: Past Reforms and Present Policy: examining the Seanad Electoral(Panel Members) Act, 1947 by Elaine Byrne (New South Wales Global Irish Studies Centre)

History and Policy Opinion 1: Seanad abolition is no threat to our democracy – more an opportunity by Eoin O’Malley (DCU)

History and Policy Opinion 2: Proposal to abolish Seanad is an ‘awesome admission of failure’ by Diarmaid Ferriter (UCD)

History and Policy Opinion 3: One house is plenty: total abolition would enhance Irish democracy by Paschal Donohue TD, Minister for European Affairs.

History and Policy Opinion 4: We should not willingly walk into a constitutional no-man’s landOpinion piece by Brian Murphy (UCD)