Below is a blog I wrote on back in 2011 – http://wp.me/pY9kk-3r – I am re-posting it now because I attended a meeting on Wednesday night in the Central Hotel with a large group of people from a variety of backgrounds and groups who are looking to campaign against the proposed abolition of Seanad Eireann.
I thought about this piece I had written and how it reflected the positive and visionary impact the Seanad can have if used properly. I also fear the direction this government are going in relation to the centralisation of power in the hands of a few. Yes we need to change our politics, yes we need to be more of a society then an economy but NO we do not need to crudely abolish our second chamber on a whim.
More to come…
I write this piece having just witnessed the 23rd Seanad’s final act, which saw the passage of Senator Dan Boyle’s ‘Mental Health (Involuntary Procedures) Amendment Bill’. It was historic in a number of ways, it was the first time private members time had been used to introduce such a Bill back in 2009 and it was also the first time the Seanad has sat to pass a Bill in the interim period between a Dail and Seanad election.
I work with a lobby group called the Delete59b Campaign who were seeking the deletion of the entirity of section 59b of the Mental Health Act 2001, which deals with forced Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) and we worked with Senator Boyle since 2009 to bring this about. What we achieved today is not only a compromise amendment but also an ensurance that the Bill stays alive as it will now move on to the Dail for further debate.
The compromise that was reached between Senator Dan Boyle and his Labour colleagues with the agreement of Minister Kathleen Lynch to delete the word ‘unwilling’ from the Act and to insert the need for ‘written informed consent’ from the patient is a great step forward in the fight for greater rights for patients in mental health care in Ireland. While the word ‘unable’ remains in the Act some strong safeguards have been added, and as I said the debate will continue as the Bill moves onto the Dail.
But outside of this one issue what we witnessed over the past two days is the need to retain the Seanad in some form to ensure that this type of groudbreaking debate can continue to take place in our national parliament.
New Junior Minister Kathleen Lynch said as much in her contribution today when she not only praised the quality of the debate she had heard on this issue but also the style which allowed for a more interactive and informed debate.
This I think is the reason we need to retain our Seanad and I hope she takes some of those lessons back to her government colleagues!