Seanad Éireann

The Members of Seanad Éireann (Senate) are referred to as Senators. An Election to Seanad Éireann must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of Dáil Éireann.

Seanad Éireann is composed of 60 Members as follows:

  • 43 elected by five panels representing vocational interests namely, Culture and Education, Agriculture, Labour, Industry and Commerce and Public Administration
  • 6 elected by the graduates of two universities: - three each by the National University of Ireland and the University of Dublin (Trinity College)
  • 11 nominated by the Taoiseach

In theory, Seanad Éireann does not recognise party affiliations.

However, as the electorate for the panels is made up of the Members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, county councils and county borough councils, the composition of Seanad Éireann, including the Taoiseach's nominees, will tend to reflect party strengths in Dáil Éireann.

In practice, Senators will divide into groups supporting and opposing Government business when voting on issues.

The Constitution provides that not more than two Senators may be members of the Government and this provision has been exercised twice in the last 60 years.

How does the Seanad work?

Seanad Éireann normally meets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and its main business is the revising of legislation sent to it by Dáil Éireann.

However, in recent years the Government has tended to make greater use of Seanad Éireann to initiate legislation. Seanad Éireann can initiate and revise legislation but under the Constitution its legislative role is restricted in that it cannot initiate Money Bills i.e. financial legislation, and can only make recommendations but not amendments to such Bills.

The fact that a Dáil Bill must be examined also by Seanad Éireann is a safeguard against legislation being enacted too quickly. In addition to its legislative role, Seanad Éireann also debates important issues.

Indeed, as the Government is constitutionally responsible to Dáil Éireann, Seanad Éireann can debate these issues with greater freedom because the fate of the Government will not be at stake.

Moreover, Seanad Éireann cannot delay indefinitely legislation which has already been passed by Dáil Éireann and cannot initiate Bills to amend the Constitution.