Seanad Eireann: it’s quality that counts

It is embarrassing that the House failed to sit on Tuesday last. However, it is just as embarrassing when one considers not so much the quantity of Seanad sittings but their quality. I do not for one minute suggest debate in the House is not of high quality; when it happens, it is. However, the procedures must be loosened in order that Members can genuinely delve into and scrutinise subjects, particularly the four-year plan the Government is to bring forward.

Members cannot simply have a set piece debate, for which a Minister comes into the House to make a speech, followed by others by a series of Members. Instead, the quality of discussion must be examined, as well as the ability of Members to make a genuine contribution to the public debate that must happen. This is not taking place, although Members on all sides of the House have been calling for it for years.

This is not to point the finger at anyone, except to state Members have taken an overly conservative approach to how they organise their business. They could be doing a great deal more and make a much better contribution, even in respect of Opposition proposals. Members on the benches opposite like to have the odd cut at the Opposition that it lacks proposals. But surely the way to address this is to have discussion, debate and scrutiny on the floor of the House.

In that way, we could make a genuine contribution to the public debate that needs to happen. I ask the Leader once more to determine whether we can put our heads together in dealing with this urgent question in order that we can genuinely earn our keep in the Upper House, a real issue for the people. I refer not only to the number of times we sit but also to what we do when we sit.