Trinity senator seats to be eliminated in Seanad reform

A report is to recommend one six-seat panel for university constituencies

A Seanad reform report is set to recommend that the election of three Trinity senators by Trinity graduates be abolished.

In place of the current system, which sees graduates elect senators on an institution-specific basis, the reform would establish one six-seat Seanad panel that would be elected by graduates of all universities and institutes of technology in Ireland.

Under the existing system, six members of the Seanad are elected by graduates, while 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach. A further 43 are chosen by outgoing Senators, TDs, and members of city and county councils.

Seanad Éireann is the Upper House of the Irish Legislature and is composed of sixty members. Under Article 18(4) of the Irish Constitution six senators are elected to Seanad Éireann by university constituencies, with three of the university senators elected by the graduates of the National University of Ireland and three by the graduates of Trinity.

In 1979, a referendum on the seventh amendment to the Constitution took place to extend the Seanad electorate to all graduates. The referendum was successful, passing with a 92.4% yes vote.

However, no change in the Seanad election procedure was implemented following the referendum. In 2013, after a referendum to abolish the Seanad was defeated, former Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged to implement the result of the 1979 referendum, although the system is yet to be altered.

In the most recent election in April 2016 , the three senators elected by the University of Dublin constituency were Ivana Bacik, Lynn Ruane, and David Norris.

Lynn Ruane held the position of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President in the 2015/2016 academic year. Ruane was a first time candidate and the only new Senator to be elected in the 2016 vote.

Ivana Bacik is a Senior Lecturer and Fellow of Trinity. She has been a senator for the University of Dublin since 2007.

David Norris is a former Trinity lecturer and Leader of the Independent University Group in Seanad Éireann. He was first nominated as a member of the Seanad in 1987.

Lorna Aylward

Lorna Aylward is a staff writer for Trinity News. She is a Senior Fresh Law student.