Women in Elections – Seanad Elections 2020

Supporting powerful women for the Seanad Elections – on the NUI panel please vote for Senator Alice-Mary Higgins, and on the University of Dublin panel please vote for Ivana Bacik and Lynn Ruane. Their continued voices in the Seanad is essential.

Seanad Éireann has a very complicated electoral process. There are 60 members: 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach, six are elected by the Universities panel and the remaining 43 are selected from a complex series of panels by an electorate which includes the members of the new Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, and county councillors.

When the Constitution was drafted, only Dublin University (Trinity College Dublin) and the National University of Ireland were in existence and consequently the Constitution allocated three Seanad seats to each. In 1979, the 7th amendment of the Constitution allowed for the addition of further institutions by Statute. However, no such legislation has ever been passed which leaves us with the strange situation that graduates from Trinity and any of the NUI institutions can vote in Seanad elections, but those from DCU, UL, DIT, the Institutes of Technology and the Royal College of Surgeons cannot.

Yet despite the inequalities in the system of electing Senators, the role of the lower house nonetheless has a very important function in the governance of the country. The main 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, but not stop, it becoming law. Senators can also introduce their own Bills, which are debated in the Seanad and, if passed, are then debated in the Dáil. Although the Government has no constitutional responsibility to Seanad Éireann, a Minister or Minister of State attends the Seanad when it is dealing with Bills or debating Government policy.

The Seanad Members elect a Cathaoirleach who acts as Chairperson of the Seanad. The Taoiseach appoints one of the Senators to be Leader of the Seanad and the Opposition parties also appoint their leaders in the Seanad. The Seanad also elects a Leas-Chathaoirleach, who is the deputy Chairperson of the House.

In the last elections, 18 out of the 60 seats in the Seanad were held by women. Ireland is currently ranked 99th in the world classification table for women’s representation in parliament. The figure for the Seanad is 18 out of 60 (30%). The European average figure for women’s representation in the lower or single house of parliament is 30 per cent. In Nordic countries, the average figure is 41 per cent.

Ireland’s ranking has worsened over the last two decades. In 1990, when Mary Robinson became Ireland’s first woman President, Ireland was at 37th position in the world rankings. Ireland’s position has worsened because we have never significantly increased the numbers of women elected – unlike other countries like Belgium and Spain which have introduced positive action measures.

In 1918 women achieved the right to vote in Ireland for the first time. In the general election of December 1918, Constance Markievicz was the first woman TD and MP elected. The year 2018 marked the centenary of this historic event. Now in 2020, following the recent general election, where once again the percentage of women elected to the upper house fell again, the Seanad elections are upon us.

There are 118 candidates seeking election to the vocational panels. On the NUI Panel there are 19 candidates in the field, with three seats to fill. Eight of these candidates are women, including the incumbent Senator Alice-Mary Higgins. Having a vote at Smashing Times on this panel, Alice-Mary would have our vote. She is a friend and supporter of Smashing Times and we are delighted to support her in her re-election to the Seanad.

Alice Mary always works for equality and human rights of all citizens. Her continued voice in the Seanad is essential. She is a progressive, independent Senator with a strong commitment to equality, the environment and human rights. An effective legislator, she has won over 50 amendments since 2016.

Alice-Mary Higgins has over two decades of experience in policy, strategy and advocacy. In 2016 Alice-Mary was elected on the NUI panel for Seanad Éireann. She was the first woman in thirty-five years to be elected to the NUI panel and the third woman ever elected on that panel. An advocate for social and economic equality all her adult life, Alice-Mary keeps these principles to the fore in the Seanad and works to bring care, creativity and long-term thinking into the heart of political debate.

Her work focuses on a range of gender equality issues – including the pension and pay gap, childcare and greater representation of women in all areas of national life.

On the University of Dublin panel there are 10 candidates seeking to fill 3 seats. Of these ten candidates only two are women; two of the current incumbents, Ivana Bacik and Lynn Ruane. Smashing Times has worked with both Senators in their previous tenures as Senators and we are delighted to support them on their re-election to the Seanad.

Ivana was Chairperson of the Oireachtas Vótáil 100 Committee organising a programme of events in 2018 to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in Ireland. She was on the Executive of the Together for Yes campaign in the successful referendum to Repeal the Eighth Amendment in May 2018. She is a wonderful advocate for women and we wish her the very best on her re-election.

Lynn Ruane’s background has always been rooted in community development and those values and principles have infused all of her work. She is inclusive and collaborative in all of her work, ensuring that every legislative amendment, every bill and motion that she has brought forward, and every policy proposal has been part of a process; this process directly involves the people and organisations that are working at the front line of the big issues facing society. Her community education initiatives, such as Project Sums and Philosophy in the Community, are a testament to her commitment to the grassroots of society. Her first four years in the Seanad have seen her contribute significantly to the political process and we look forward to her second term – use your vote to make this happen.

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