There has been much talk in the last few weeks about the future of the Senate. While I have some sympathy for Enda Kenny’s suggestion that the Senate be abolished I doubt there is any realistic chance that will happen.
However I do think we have an opportunity to reform the confusing and outdated upper house.
My suggestion is to re-make the Senate as a directly elected house that could have a greater role in government and also act as a way for minority view points to be heard.
Currently the 60 seats in the Senate are elected in a convoluted and frankly unfair way (more detail here). I suggest we replace this with an easy to understand, more democratic system.
26 seats should be elected on the basis of one per county, this would provide low population counties like Leitrim with guaranteed representation and might help to make the ongoing redistribution of Dáil seats from rural and western areas to urban and east coast areas more palatable. This is of course unfair to some counties (Dublin, Cork etc.) which have large populations but these areas have large numbers of TD’s. Having said that, Dublin city could be allocated 1 or more Senetors to address this if necessary. If a Senator was allocated to Cork city then Limerick and Galway might also have to be looked at.
The remaining 34 Senators (or a smaller number if we reduce the number of Senators) should then be elected from a single national constituency. This would mean that an individual or small political party could achieve a Senate seat with around 3% of the vote this would ensure that minority viewpoints were included in the new Senate and yes that might include some people we don’t like. The political parties would need to draw up lists in advance and they would them be allocated seats proportional to the vote they achieved. I’d imagine a system where people voted for a party rather than individual would make the voting simpler. There is still the question of how Independents would appear on the national ballot and what rules would be in place for a candidate to qualify to appear on the ballot (perhaps 5,000 nominators?).
This is just a rough outline, I’d really like to here comments from other people.