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Dr Ciarán O Murchadha

Seanad to relocate to Ennis?

MAYOR Johnny Flynn is set to ask Clare County Council to back a Seanad reform proposal that would relocate the Upper House of the Oireachtas to Ennis.

Cllr Flynn will ask the municipal district to back his proposal, in line with the electorate’s decision last year to see the Seanad reformed rather than abolished.

The questions surrounding the future of the Seanad remain a year later, Mayor Flynn said, and he is set to put a possible solution on the agenda of next week’s Ennis Municipal District meeting.

Noting the recent reform of local government, he will call on Clare County Council to seek urgent and meaningful reform of central Government, starting with the relocation of Seanad Éireann.

The Seanad in the west would act as a counterbalance to the Dail in Dublin, he believes.

Senator Martin Conway agrees the proposal has merit.

“I welcome Mayor Flynn’s extremely interesting proposals on Seanad reform. The people voted in October 2013 to retain the Upper House of Parliament with a very clear caveat that they wanted radical reform. I believe Mayor Flynn’s proposal merits serious consideration and should form part of the overall move towards fundamental reform of the upper house.

“I look forward to following Clare County Council’s deliberations very carefully,” said Senator Conway.
“Effectively, what I am proposing is that we call on the Government to urgently ask the public through a referendum to decide on whether to offer Seanad Éireann an opportunity to an opportunity to completely re-set itself and start from fresh,” Mayor Flynn said.

“The proposed change in physical location will create the opportunity to also adjust this vital government body’s responsibilities as requested by voters in 2013,” the Ennis councillor said.

He continued, “The county town of Ennis is the right new location for the Seanad from a historical, democratic, geographical, social and economic point of view.”

One of Clare’s key professional historians, Dr Ciarán Ó Murchadha  explained the historical fit, “Because of Ennis’ peculiar historical associations with the development of parliamentary democracy and humane political values, no location in Ireland could be more resonant for the home of the Seanad, the seat of a moral political conscience for Ireland.

“During the 19th century, the county gained the honoured title of ‘Immortal Clare’, when Clare’s fiercely independent-minded, and passionately loyal to their principles, voters, with almost insane courage, defied their landlords to vote for Daniel O’Connell in the legendary Clare bye-election of 1828, which led to a revolution in parliamentary representation in the English-speaking world,” Dr Ó Murchadha said.

“It was here also that a later generation of Clare voters first elected a supporter of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1879 and, in July 1917, electoral contest brought Eamonn De Valera to national fame, helped precipitate the new separatist politics of the early twentieth century, leading to a national War of Independence and the emergence of the modern Irish state,” he added.

Geographically, Ennis is ideally located between some of the key rural universities of Ireland. The Seaned could flourish through the engagement of students, which is a concept current being trialed in Ennis,with University of Limerick, through the Ennis 2020 and the Ennis community safety research.

In terms of the housing of the State body in Ennis town, the mayor suggested that Ennis has a number of historic buildings, including Erasmus Smith College, at the top of College Road, which until recently housed the Coláiste Mhuire secondary school.

“From an economic and social perspective, Ennis and Clare would benefit hugely from the new activity, bringing a welcome boost to the county town, the county and the West in general.

“With Ennis, the largest town in Munster, having seen a doubling of its population to nearly 30,000 over the last 25 years and projected future growth to over 40,000 by 2030, it is important that it secure a major State institution like the Seanad into the town, which would provide spin-off jobs and would give rural Ireland a real voice in national affairs.” said Mayor Flynn.

“I understand that, at first, the idea may sound a little far-fetched to some and might take some years to be realised, but I believe we, in Ennis and Clare, have a strong case for becoming the home for a reformed Seanad Éireann, which will give a stronger platform to an Irish voice of reason and values,” he concluded.

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