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Will abolishing the second house in the Irish Parliament increase or decrease womens voices in Irish politics?

(Dublin, 25 September) More spaces for women’s voices or a chance to abolish an inequality right now? At today’s debate, “Keep or Abolish the Seanad – What impact on Women?” organised by National Women’s Council of Ireland, key speakers proposed arguments for and against the abolition of the Seanad from a women’s perspective.

Regina Doherty, TD, said,
“As a female TD I wanted to be a representative of my people. The Seanad does not offer this platform. It does not have any real impact on people’s lives. It is not reformable. We found that whatever way the Seanad would be reformed it would either stay undemocratic and elitist or become a carbon copy replica of Dáil Eireann. Let’s focus on strengthening the Dáil. ”

Senator Katherine Zappone said,
“Abolishing the Seanad would abolish greater opportunities for women to participate in the Oireachtas. We are uniquely placed within Europe to imagine a radical new form of governance that includes a second house rather than excludes it. We have the opportunity to choose a diversity and breadth of voices rather than the imposition of oneness and sameness.”

Martina Devlin, Author and Columnist, said,
“The Seanad is a parody of democracy because it perverts the principle of one citizen, one vote. The Seanad is an elite voted for by an elite to function as an elite. We women know about systematic unfairness, regardless of our walk of life. But the Seanad is one inequality we can eradicate right now with a simple tick in a box.”

Noel Whelan, Barrister and Columnist said,
“The referendum is not asking if the Seanad should be reformed. Seanad abolition asks you to tear 40 + provisions out of our Constitution. Even in its weakened state, the Seanad has operated as a platform for alternative voices, including female voices in a way the Dáil has not.”

National Women’s Council of Ireland does not take a position in the Seanad referendum but aims to provide a space for discussion on the referendum from a women’s perspective.

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