I have been campaigning for Seanad reform for more than forty years and the parties did bugger all about it. Among the points I made all the time is that the University of Limerick and DCU should be included. Of course they should. I have some reservations about this business of diplomas which I note is not defined in the Definitions Section. We do not know what a diploma is or where it comes from. If one looks at the definition of a university, as I understand it, and I taught in a university for many years, it is something that takes in a universal spectrum of ideas – engineering, the arts, medicine and other such areas, not more valuable but quite distinct from a technological university.
I say this despite the fact that my cousin David FitzPatrick is head of the Technological Universities Body, so I expect I will get a kind Christmas card from him for saying that. I have campaigned on this issue for many years. I ask Senator Byrne why he would take on the only democratic element in this house. We are the only democratic element. I have a constituency of 65,000 voters. NUI has 115,000. Those are constituencies. Let us compare that with the Taoiseach nominating 11 members without even the farce of an election. There is power, and that of course is what it is all about. It is all about the vested parties interests. I regard this as nothing more than a gerrymander. It may seem to be a rather unusual word to use, but it is a gerrymander intended to advantage the political parties and keep the independent voices out.
For that reason I hope it will fail.
The bill takes one element out of the bill that my late friend and colleague Senator Feargal Quinn introduced into this house. That was put together by a group of lawyers that Feargal paid for, who had damn all understanding of the university constituencies and for that reason it was a complete nonsense. I say it is a gerrymander because it would keep out new young blood. I think that is what this house needs.
I do not know whether it is true but I was told that neither Fianna Fail nor Fine Gael is supporting this bill. We will wait to see. That would be interesting in and of itself. I have campaigned over many years for reform of the Seanad and I would like real reform, that is reform of the entire institution. I think that is unlikely for the reasons I have stated, but there we are. In any case we did manage to save this house. It is a very good thing for this country that we did. With that I will sit down and leave the debate to my colleagues.
Senator David Norris