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    Should there be diaspora representation in Seanad?

    By Noreen Bowden | March 25, 2009

    Representation for the Diaspora should be included in Seanad Reform, says Irish Times columnist Elaine Byrne.

    Yes, there is a place for a second chamber of democracy in modern Ireland. But not in its current configuration and not with the current reforms on the table. Seanad representation must be extended to third-level graduates from all our educational institutions, the almost 500,000 unemployed, the diaspora, our ethnic and religious minorities and our Northern neighbours.

    Emigrant representation in the Seanad has been proposed before, of course – the most relevant recent document covering the matter was 2004 Report on Seanad reform, which agreed “in principle that emigrants, and indeed immigrants, should have a voice in Seanad Eireann”. It suggested that the emigrant voting posed “major logistical and administrative problems”. Instead, it said,

    “The Subcommittee is therefore of the view that the Taoiseach, when selecting his nominees for the Seanad, should include people who can represent the interests and perspectives of both emigrants and immigrants.”

    It will be interesting to see if calls for emigrant political participation – elected or appointed – increase as the number of emigrants rise and Irish engagement with the diaspora continues to strengthen. Ireland is unusual in giving its emigrants no opportunity to participate in the political process; there are over 150 countries and territories that give their emigrants some form of elected political representation.

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