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The dust may not quite have settled on #GE2020 but over the next few weeks you’ll be hearing about elections to the Seanad. In this edition of #SHESpeaks, we’ll tell you all you need to know!

What is the Seanad?

The Oireachtas consists of what is known as a ‘bicameral chamber’ as well as the President of Ireland. ‘Bicameral’ means there are two Houses – the Lower House is known as Dáil Éireann while the Upper House is known as Seanad Éireann, or more commonly, ‘the Seanad’. The Seanad has 60 members and usually reflects the party representation in the Dáil.

How are Senators elected?

You can be elected to the Seanad in one of three ways:

  • Taoiseach’s nominees: The Taoiseach can select 11 people to become senators. Previous Taoiseach picks include former TDs or figures from public life.
  • Panel Elections: There are five Panels with a total of 43 seats (Cultural & Educational, Agricultural, Labour, Administrative and Industrial & Commercial). Within each panel there are Nominating Bodies sub-panels and an Oireachtas sub-panel. The Nominating Bodies sub-panel will contain nominations from various different organisations e.g. The Law Society, ICTU etc. Nominations from the Oireachtas sub-panel can come from any four members of the incoming Dáil or outgoing Seanad.
  • University Panel: Anyone who is an NUI graduate (UCC, UCD, NUI Galway, Maynooth University, TCD or RCSI) gets to elect six senators from this panel. Candidates must be nominated by two registered electors from the university.

When and how are the elections held?

Seanad elections must take place with 90 days of the General (Dáil Election) – PR-STV voting is used and there is a secret postal ballot.

What does the Seanad do?

The function of the Seanad (upper house) is to provide another layer of democracy and to keep the Dáil in check.

The primary function of the Seanad is to debate legislation proposed by the Government. The Seanad can amend a Bill that has been passed by the Dáil and delay it but it cannot stop it becoming law. (Note: there is an exception – The Seanad cannot delay a budget). Senators can also introduce their own Bills, which are debated in the Seanad and, if passed, are then debated in the Dáil

What happened in the Seanad Referendum 2013?

In 2013, the electorate were asked in a referendum to vote whether they felt the Seanad should be abolished. The result was a close one – 51.7% said No, 48.27% said Yes.

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