I have no doubt that a properly functioning and elected second house is a useful thing in a democracy. But one has to wonder about the mindset that treats the second house as a parachute.
For non Irish readers – the Taoiseach can nominate 11 senators in addition to the 49 elected. Of those 49 6 face real elections – university graduates in their tens of thousands – while the others are in effect elected by a motley crew of local government parttime councillors. However, they are elected so…
Faced with a chance to put into parliament 11 people , to a house which on its best day is a wonderful foil to and sounding board for the lower house, Enda had two choices. Knowing that even were he to send 11 clones of himself the government would not have a majority, he could have gone for a set of talented and outspoken individuals who would challenge and provoke debate. Or, as he has done, he could abrogate that responsibility and stuff failures and party loyalists. Indeed, he even went so far as to give 3 choices to the quasi-taoiseach Micheal Martin.
Lets look at one in particular – Padraig O’Ceidig. I have never met the man, but I am sure he is a lovely guy. With a background in (admittedly massively eyewateringly subsidised) regional aviation, he come across as thoughtful and reflective, a decent human being and a man at peace with himself.
He wanted to be a senator and to his credit he stood for election, seeking the votes of university graduates. He failed to persuade them, although he hung on in through the counts , gaining a lot of transfers from eliminated candidates. At the end of the day he could not persuade enough voters that he was the man to represent them in the upper house. Now, he is a member of that upper house. Theres got to be something wrong with that approach to politics. He was rejected for election and now is parachuted in. If thats not the literal subversion of democracy I dont know what is. Other nominees are similar – having failed to be elected to parliament we have in parliament Jim Reilly, Michelle Mulheirn, Paudie Coffey, Ray Butler, John O’Mahoney and Frank Feighan. All are I am sure able and worthy people, but having been rejected one has to wonder.
Each election the Taoiseach has a wonderful opportunity to give voice to people who might not see themselves as elected politicians. It is a potential which has again been wasted.