Presidential Nominations: Motion

I move:

"That Seanad Éireann:

in the light of All Party agreement, repeated promises by Government to provide openness, transparency, accountability and democracy as well as the unanimous support of professional commentators and constitutional experts, expressed during the 2011 Presidential election;

in the light of clearly demonstrated public support; and

in the light of the fact that a less significant matter i.e the term of office of the Presidency has been referred to the Constitutional Convention;

calls on the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to immediately bring recommendations to Government to implement the recommendations contained in the 1998 Third Progress Report of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution relating to the procedure for nominating a Presidential candidate; or

to bring proposals to Government to refer the recommendations contained in the above mentioned report to the Constitutional Convention for consideration.".

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, to the House.

The matter for debate in Seanad Éireann this evening concerns the highest office in the land and, therefore, must be taken seriously and treated with respect. For some considerable time it had been recognised virtually universally that the process of nomination for the presidency of Ireland is undemocratic and unfair and is specifically and deliberately geared in favour of party candidates. Of the nine Presidents since the foundation of this State not one has been fully independent of party affiliation nor has any candidate won without the support of at least one of the major parties and its machinery.

This is not in any sense to cast aspersions on the holders of that office. The Irish presidency is in fact one of those rare exceptions that proves the rule. In this case the rule being the old legal precept that the fruit of a rotten tree must also be suspect. We can be justly proud of every single President this country has produced from the first President Douglas Hyde in 1938 to the current incumbent. The current holder of the office, President Michael D. Higgins, got off to a flying start, with a clear and decisive result and has demonstrated a remarkable dynamism and enthusiasm. His status has increased every day with every speech and every event he has graced with his presence. The Irish people could not have made a better choice. I say that with the authority of someone who sought that office in the same election.

I wish it to be understood in this matter that I have no personal axe to grind. Under no circumstances do I dispute the result of the presidential election. I fully acknowledge that I entered this race knowing and accepting the prevailing conditions. However, this does not mean that I thereby forfeited the right to challenge those conditions. Throughout the presidential election, I made it clear that I had a concern about the nomination process and with every day that passed that concern increased. Moreover, this concern is virtually universally shared. This is shown by the reaction of the public and by the clear statement of every major party in the State on an historical basis.

So far there have been nine Presidents. The first President, Dr. Douglas Hyde, was installed by the political establishment without consultation of any kind with the Irish people. On no less than six occasions no attempt was made to allow involvement of the people of Ireland, namely, in circumstances affecting two-thirds of the presidencies the candidate was successful either by agreement between the parties without an election or by uncontested self-nomination. Prior to 2011, the last contested election was in 1997, which meant that no one under 30 had any experience of a presidential election or had the opportunity to vote in one. Had there not been an election in 2011 we would have had a situation whereby no one under 40 had the opportunity to take part in the election of the first citizen of this State. This almost happened. It is widely known and was reported generally in the press that there were significant moves by the parties to avoid the expense of a presidential election and secure the nomination of an agreed candidate thereby again bypassing the will of the people. A number of excellent and outstanding names were mentioned in this regard. Such efforts might well have been successful had I not intervened at an early stage and demonstrated that there was very considerable support among the electorate for someone with an independent background.

During the 1990s an all-party Oireachtas committee was established to review the Constitution and among the elements to be considered was the office of president. I made a submission to the committee suggesting a reduction in the term of the presidency from seven to five years on the basis that we had modelled our presidency in a number of regards on the French presidency, which country had already made such an amendment in relation to term of office. Before this matter was considered there was a change of Government and almost inevitably the matter became a party political football. In 1997, former Fine Gael Deputies Jim O'Keeffe and Paul McGrath initiated a Bill entitled the Eighteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 1997, which was presented to the Dáil on 24 of September 1997. Under the 1937 Constitution there are two methods of nomination to the office of Uachtarán na hÉireann. One is nomination by no fewer than 20 persons, each of whom is at the time a Member of one of the Houses of the Oireachtas, and the second is nomination by the councils of not less than four administrative counties including county boroughs as defined by law. Deputies O'Keeffe and McGrath added a third method which is nomination by no fewer than 20,000 citizens each of whom is entitled for the time being to vote in an election held under this article for such nomination to be made in a manner prescribed by law. In supporting the Bill, Michael McDowell stated that while the democratic legitimacy of the office was enhanced by the fact that the majority of the people have the opportunity to vote:

Democratic legitimacy is circumscribed currently by a nominating procedure which is seriously restrictive. The bald fact is that not everyone can become President. Until this year it had been, in effect, necessary for any prospective President to obtain the support of one of the three biggest political parties in the State. As a result, no previous election had more than three candidates and several had only two. The candidates in contested elections were almost always party politicians and invariably men. It is clear that many people want to look beyond the political parties to find suitable candidates.

He further stated:

It would be invidious and unacceptable if individuals were denied a nomination as a result of the nomination procedure which currently applies. There is a powerful argument for extending the nomination capacity.

I can find no one who disagreed with this position. Brian Lenihan, however, expressed unease at the fact that Fine Gael was stealing a march on the constitutional review committee by issuing a pre-emptive strike in the form of this Bill. He stated:

I took it that there was an all-party agreement on this subject that when the committee was re-established after the general election, that the all-party committee would look at the Presidency and that a political party would not take unilateral or a stroke approach towards this question by introducing a measure in Private Members' time on the subject. I was very surprised to discover that our former chairperson of the committee is the Deputy proposing this Bill to amend the Constitution.

Thus, it is clear that the Presidency and the question of the nomination procedures had become a political football between the two principal parties and this is a matter of great regret. However, it is even more significant that despite this politicking there was still unanimous agreement that the nomination procedures were too restrictive. It was pointed out that an opportunity did already exist through the county council route whereby if one or more of the major parties abstained on a nomination of an Independent, that person could secure a nomination. However, during my own attempts to gain a nomination it was made clear to me in Longford County Council that Fine Gael had issued explicit instructions not only that they were to abstain but they were to vote against me.

I say this simply to illustrate the contrast between the theoretical and ethical position adopted by the parties and the pragmatic reality of their political practice. Doubts were also raised at this stage about the problematic nature of verifying the signatures of the then proposed 20,000 members of the public. However, the recent years have seen extraordinary advances in the use of computer technology and there is no doubt that this would now be a comparatively simple matter to secure. The Bill was defeated. The matter returned for consideration by the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution. This body published its third progress report in 1998 and it is significant that it stated clearly, unanimously and unambiguously that, "The Committee agrees with the Constitutional Review Group that the Constitutional requirements for nominating a Presidential candidate are too restrictive and in need of democratisation." It suggested a clear alteration to the nomination process, the reduction from 20 to ten Members of the Oireachtas as nominators, and a provision for popular nomination. However, this entailed also continuing to bear in mind that the dignity of the office of President must be preserved against the possibility of frivolous or inadequately qualified candidates. Nevertheless, they made a recommendation that a figure of 10,000 would be appropriate as requiring widespread but at the same time achievable support for a candidacy. This takes into account the fact that the timescale for achieving this number is a mere 60 days. These recommendations have since lain dormant. During the election I consistently raised this issue and it met with a great degree of public support. Subsequent to the election I considered introducing legislation but on account of the technical difficulty that the Seanad is precluded constitutionally from introducing a referendum Bill, it was not possible for me to introduce this legislatively.

However, on 2 December 2011, Deputy Catherine Murphy introduced in the Dáil the Thirty-First Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2011 which would have addressed all these points such as: reducing the number of Oireachtas members necessary for nomination from 20 to ten; providing for a popular initiative of 10,000 citizens; and reducing the presidential term of office from seven to five years, among other more technical matters including amending a mistake in Article 12 of the Constitution with inappropriate reference to proportional representation. Once more there was very considerable support and the matter was argued very finely and with intellectual distinction and a considerable degree of reference to constitutional authorities such as the late Professor J.M. Kelly. Deputy Murphy was supported by Deputy Barry Cowen of Fianna Fáil. Sinn Féin also gave general support to the Bill.

In response, the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, who is in the House today, appeared to express some qualified support but queried the timing of the Bill. He and other contributors appeared to believe that despite the present process, everyone who had declared a serious interest in running was ultimately able to get onto the ballot paper, despite the nomination process. This is incorrect. The Minister of State's own brother withdrew from seeking a nomination.

He thought the Senator would beat him.

He stated that in his view it was completely impossible for any Independent candidate to get elected because of the restrictions on nomination. The nomination process itself is not the only disincentive. For example, no one below a certain level of income or without the capacity to borrow massively is in a position to stand for this office and this debars all but a tiny minority of our citizens from seeking the democratic right to stand for President. The current system of funding presidential campaigns requires all candidates or their parties to underwrite their own election expenses. One would have thought, given the extraordinary difficulties in securing a nomination, that it would be a legitimate expectation to have at least a reasonable proportion of election expenses covered by the State. The current quota necessary to trigger State support is clearly set on the basis that only party candidates would contest and that there would be only two or three candidates in the race. In a situation such as the last presidential election where there were seven candidates, it is mathematically obvious that the majority of those legitimately contesting the election will fail to secure any State assistance. This creates at the very least an unsustainable financial risk aimed at deterring the inclusion of ordinary citizens into what is seen as the private realm of the parties.

All parties have been demonstrated to play politics with the Presidency and indeed during the last election it was widely stated by senior figures in Fine Gael that since they never had the Presidency it was now their turn. This is essentially undemocratic. The Presidency belongs to no party; it belongs always to the people. It is never the turn of any party; it is always the turn of the people. However, it is clear that the political establishment does not trust the people, at least in the matter of nomination, and believes this office should be kept the preserve of the political elite. For the purposes of this debate I am deliberately leaving to one side certain other factors that deterred Independent candidates, in particular, the attitude of the media. The discrimination against an Independent candidate is highlighted when one considers the existing two-tiered system of funding which allows political parties to accept a maximum donation of €6,348.69 per annum from an individual while an Independent candidate can only accept €2,539.48. In addition, services provided at an election by an employee of a political party are deemed not to be donations or benefits in kind, nor are election expenses incurred by a political party on behalf of a candidate at a presidential election so considered. This means, in effect, that once a party candidate has achieved a nomination, finance is automatically in place. Poster sites can be booked, material printed, etc., while the Independent candidate has merely a window of 30 days in which to achieve this impossible task.

For an Independent, prior to receiving a nomination it is almost impossible to fund raise. Funders want to know that their candidate will be in the race. This means that for an Independent there is effectively only one month in which to fund raise. The length of time required for an Independent candidate to acquire a nomination means that all services and materials are more expensive as financial commitments cannot be negotiated until certainty exists. It is clear that all the parties have acknowledged the undemocratic and unfair nature of the nomination to the position of President. Nevertheless, they have all shown an unwillingness to alter this system and they also have been party to the imposition of financial constraints to inhibit citizens of Ireland from participating in one of the most serious constitutional exercises provided by the State.

I believe this is a matter that must be rectified and the motion before the House does so in a decent and dignified manner. The motion suggests two alternatives which I think are very reasonable. One is for the Minister to bring a proposal to Government to implement the recommendations contained in the 1998 all-party report or to refer the recommendations to the constitutional convention. The constitutional convention has already been asked to consider the minor matter of the reduction of the term of office of the President and it would seem a quite extraordinary situation if the substantial issue which is that of the nomination process and of the right and capacity of individual citizens to take part in this process, were avoided in the work of the convention. This, in my opinion, seriously weakens the credibility of the constitutional convention in the same manner as the exclusion from consideration of the reform of Seanad Éireann.

I am proud to second the motion. I welcome the Minister of State, who is a regular visitor to the House. I agree with Senator Norris that we have been most fortunate with President Michael D. Higgins in the performance of his duties and, indeed, with all his predecessors.

However, this is a time to look forward and I believe these issues should have been put on the agenda for the constitutional convention, in particular the initiative power. Under the Lisbon treaty 1 million citizens can make petitions to the European Parliament. That is from a population of 500 million. It is the same percentage of our 4.8 million as 9,600 people; in other words, the 10,000 signatures that the all-party committee considered. In fact, it is in line with European practice. I am sure the Minister will agree that it is very important we deepen and extend democracy and if somebody collects 10,000 signatures, it would be a good idea to put his or her name before the people for election. As we emerge from the failure of so many Irish institutions which led to the bank guarantee and the rescue of the entire country by the IMF in late 2010, reinventing institutions, the citizenry and governance is a major issue. There were powers of initiative for citizens under the constitution of the first Free State Government and in these days of improved technology and an alert and interested citizenry — the Taoiseach said earlier today that he finds Irish citizens much more involved and interested in European issues than is the case in other countries, which is probably because we must have referenda — we have a very vibrant democracy which will help us jointly to find a way out of our difficulties.

Allowing 10,000 citizens to nominate a candidate for President would be a deepening of that democracy. Like my learned friend, I wished that the Minister of State's brother had been able to accumulate that number of signatures.

He would have been a very worthy candidate in view of his work for the Irish in America. At the very least, this issue should go to the constitutional convention.

Senator Quinn and I received some briefings on the constitutional convention. I am not particularly worried whether the President serves for seven years. In fact, I am delighted the last three terms and more were served for seven years each, so I am not sure that reducing the term from seven to five years is very important. However, all citizens should participate in the choice. The time when county councils were able to block alternative candidates was not good. The councils were controlled by the major parties and those parties were able to exercise the power to block alternative candidates. It has been much better in recent elections with the array of candidates and the popular interest in the election. It has made for very good choices. Extending the initiative to 10,000 people is in line with the European practice which provides for 1 million signatures for initiatives. It would be a good thing and if the Minister cannot accept it today, he should refer it to the constitutional convention for its consideration.

We debated the constitutional convention with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, last week. The convention also represents a strengthening and deepening of Irish democracy through the use of the electoral register to bring it to the level of the citizen, which will allow them to say to the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers how they feel the country is going and what type of constitution it needs. I welcome that very much. It received unanimous and speedy support in this House. We would be delighted to do similar with regard to the initiative being extended to 10,000 people, as requested by my colleague's motion.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after ‘‘Seanad Éireann'' and substitute the following:

"—notes that the Constitution of Ireland sets out the requirements for the nomination of candidates for election to the office of President;

notes that in the 2011 presidential election seven candidates, the highest ever number, were validly nominated; and

notes that, following the completion of reports on the specific matters listed in the resolution passed in this House on 12 July 2012, the Constitutional Convention may report to the Houses of the Oireachtas on such other constitutional amendments that may be recommended by it.".

I agree with Senator Norris's glowing report on our current President, Michael D. Higgins. He said the best man was elected, to which I might simply say: "If the best one was elected, what is wrong with the system?" and sit down. The system is working.

I did not quite say that. I said we could not have had a better President, I did not say we could not have had one as good.

The Senator is defeating his own argument.

I am very careful with my words.

However, I will continue because it is a subject that is worthy of discussion. Senator Norris and Senator Barrett should note from the amendment that there is a provision to provide that other constitutional amendments may be recommended by the constitutional convention. That is a most important part of its work and it demonstrates the openness of the Government in establishing the convention that this provision was included. If it were a closed shop or a dictating or puppet body, there is no way it would have been left in.

Please do not tempt me.

I am just pointing to that fact.

Senator Norris can reply at the end of the debate.

Constitutional reform has been on the agenda for some time on foot of the report from the all-party Oireachtas group. It is undeniable that our current political system is in need of reform and the Government has committed to this reform. It is ongoing at present. There have been many reforms, but too many to list here. They are a one day wonder when they happen and are then forgotten. However, one cannot change the world in a day.

The establishment of the convention on the Constitution is an important and exciting initiative that represents an innovative approach to examining constitutional reform. I commend the Government for establishing it. The range of matters that the convention will be asked to consider includes both institutional and social issues. Initially, it will examine reducing the President's term of office to five years. That is not to be lightly passed over because the term of office is an important issue. It will require consideration and cannot be decided in an hour. I have heard some people say it is a "Yes" or "No" issue but the time span is important. The convention will also consider reducing the voting age to 17 years, which is another important issue.

There has been some criticism that the work programme for the convention does not go far enough and that it should encompass even more comprehensive reform. The Government remains of the view that the work programme outlined in the resolution is appropriate. The issues that will be before the convention are not light matters, but it is open to the convention to consider other matters as well. Its time span is not unlimited and we would be the first to criticise if it could take forever and was given too broad a remit without a time to report. However, to show that the Government is prepared to consider calls for a more comprehensive work programme, there is a facility for the constitutional review group to consider other topics. The timeframe within which the convention must complete its work is important. Indeed, concerns have already been expressed that the convention will have insufficient time to complete the work programme outlined in the resolution. If there is that criticism on the one hand, how can one add to its work burden on the other?

It is through this mechanism that the issue of the presidential nomination process could be tackled. Perhaps in the future the constitutional convention's brief could be extended to examine it. However, it is not included at present and it would be wrong to overload the convention. We have already passed a motion that the Seanad review should be part of the convention's work. In fact, it would probably be easier to rewrite the Constitution than to give the convention piecemeal diktats on every issue, and every Member can point to something in the Constitution that they would like to change. However, issues must be prioritised.

It is our duty to prevent the convention on the Constitution from being regarded as a missed opportunity to grapple with other big issues.

The issues that will be considered are important and appropriate. It is the first time in the history of the State that there is to be a citizens' assembly advising the Government, and that is recognised by the people. While the convention is to have 30 Members of the Oireachtas, the majority will be citizens from outside the Oireachtas. It is a participative democratic initiative and ought to be very much welcomed.

I will not elaborate on the nomination process. A referendum would be required if we were to do what Senator Norris proposes.

We are not averse to referenda. Let us have them every day of the week.

Absolutely not. I agree totally with what the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, said yesterday on referendums. There is no commitment in the programme for Government for another referendum on the subject in question. There are so many referendums already in the pipeline, including that on the rights of children, and the Government is only one year in office. We have a lot of work to do over five years.

There is no closed door. Many countries, such as Finland and Poland, have models we could examine. Twenty thousand citizens can nominate a candidate in Finland. There is verification only by sight, rather than by computer. I do not agree with that. It is not that I do not trust people in Ireland — in respect of looking at names, for example — but we know what occurs sometimes. I would like a computer system developed that could verify 20,000 nominations, thus making the nomination system easier to administer. The period of 30 days ought to be considered so as to have a level playing field for independent candidates.

I was 20 years on a council and did not like the Whip system for presidential elections because it is a non-party office. One could argue there should be a free reign. The presidency was never in the grasp of the Fine Gael Party. In this regard, I could look to other parties. I would not say, "Long may it last", as do Senators on the other side of the House.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, to the House. The reason we want to facilitate what Senator Norris and his colleagues are proposing is to afford Fine Gael the opportunity of having a President some day whom it can claim.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this motion. I commend Senator Norris and his colleagues for bringing the matter before the House. Fianna Fáil supports the motion. The Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution discussed 19 issues relating to the President, including the executive power of the President regarding external relations, whether there should be direct elections, whether the powers of the President should be extended, the viability of introducing and honour system, and the minimum age of eligibility for election to the office of President. It also made a number of recommendations on the nomination process for presidential candidates, mainly where the process is too restrictive.

Article 12.4.2° requires that all new candidates be nominated by at least 20 Oireachtas Members or by four county or borough councils. A former or retiring President may nominate himself or herself. The committee made a number of recommendations for indirect nominations, including lowering the minimum number of Oireachtas Members' signatures required for nomination from 20 to ten. My party and I very much agree with that.

The committee also examined systems from other countries. Senator Keane alluded to Finland and elsewhere in respect of popular nomination processes that give the people the opportunity to nominate candidates directly, having provided proof of identity to their local authority offices. The discussion contained in the committee's report on nomination procedures makes very interesting reading. Given the practical challenges any new system would pose and the fact that any change in the method of nomination of a candidate for election as President would, in all likelihood, require constitutional amendment. I am sure that all colleagues, including the Acting Chairman, would agree that this topic would benefit from further discussion. Therefore, neither my party nor I can understand why this issue was not one of those selected for discussion by the constitutional convention. Instead, it will consider cosmetic changes such as reducing the presidential term.

The Government is undermining the process of the convention by ploughing ahead with plans to abolish the Seanad and refusing to allow the matter to be discussed by the convention even though this House passed a resolution calling for such a discussion. I was disappointed that, in answer to the Leader today, the Taoiseach confirmed that the Seanad would not form part of the convention and that he was pressing ahead with a referendum to abolish it. The people will decide, and they will reject the Government's proposal.

Instead of a wide-ranging meaningful discussion, the Government has set out a pre-ordained list of issues in keeping with its limited agenda instead of making a sincere effort to debate on changing the role of local government, the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature and Seanad reform.

According to the news yesterday, changes to Article 26 regarding the President's power to refer articles to the Supreme Court were touted by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, as a possibility. Surely this would have been another topic that would have benefitted from further scrutiny by the constitutional convention.

Despite promises about profound political reform, the Government has introduced a constitutional convention that is far too narrow in scope, flawed in composition and limited in resources. Even more concerning is the fact that the Government has not accepted responsibility to bring proposals from the convention directly to the people via a referendum. Instead, implementation of the recommendations will be through a report on them by the relevant Minister to the Government, subsequent to which the Government will decide on whether to hold a referendum. Smokescreen reform will only deepen public cynicism about politics.

I thank Senator Norris for his insight into what it was like to be an Independent seeking presidential election and the ordeal such people need to go through from obtaining nominations to securing funding, publicity, etc. in a limited period. This must be examined and reasonable time must be given to Independents to seek nomination.

While I support the right of the people to nominate candidates, the number should be increased from that proposed by Senators Norris and Barrett. I suggest a minimum of 35,000. A presidential ballot paper of 20 or 30 candidates is the last situation we want. Forgive me for saying so, but it would be farcical.

Senator Keane stated that the Government was committed to political reform. If the abolition of the Seanad and town councils, a reduction in the number of county councillors, doing away with elections to Údarás na Gaeltachta and reducing the number of Deputies by a mere six constitute political reform, it is a farcical policy. Let us be clear that what the Government wants to do is dominate the Dáil with its large majority, abolish the Upper House where it might get caught out and get rid of the town councils. The town councils, in the Government's view, comprise only ordinary people and it questions what they would they have to say about democracy. The Government wants to reduce the number of county councillors, who are doing an excellent job for little money but are obviously causing the Government difficulties. The last straw will be to abolish democracy within Gaeltacht areas. This is a disgrace.

I reiterate my support and that of my party for the motion tabled by Senator Norris and his colleague.

I welcome the Minister of State——

I am sorry, but I believed the Acting Chairman was waiting to call me.

No. The Minister of State is next.

Will the Acting Chairman not allow me? I am the last Senator to speak.

The Senator is after the Minister of State and me.

Has Senator Gilroy made his contribution yet?

Senator Mooney is not even on the list. He did not indicate his desire to speak. The Minister of State is next.

I can indicate and do not need to be on a list.

Yes, but the Senator did not indicate.

Neither of us was on the list.

We shall begin with Senator Quinn, followed by Senator Gilroy. After that, I will take Senator Mooney's contribution.

I commend the House on this discussion and I have listened to Senators' comments with great interest. Like Senator Keane, I agree with Senator Norris's comments regarding an tUachtarán na hÉireann, who is doing a fantastic job and going from strength to strength. The office is held in the highest esteem and each of its holders has increased people's respect for it. This debate is timely. Although there will be differences of opinion concerning how candidates come forward, everyone wants to ensure a full and proper debate. I hope that my contribution will help the House to move this work forward.

The requirements for the nomination of presidential election candidates are set out in Article 12 of the Constitution. This provides that candidates for election must be nominated by not fewer than 20 Members of the Oireachtas or by not fewer than four city or county councils. A former or retiring President may become a candidate on his or her own nomination. No person and no council is entitled to subscribe to the nomination of more than one candidate in respect of the same election. These requirements did not mitigate against there being seven candidates for election in 2011. That election saw the highest ever number of candidates on the ballot paper for a presidential election. Seven candidates were validly nominated. Three were nominated by the Oireachtas and the majority were nominated by city and county councils. Notwithstanding the points made about Whips, party instructions on how to vote and so on, I am unaware of anyone who did not become a candidate through one method or the other.

Allowing councils to nominate gives them a proper role, as laid out in the Constitution, and increases interest in the election as candidates go from council to council. Council members acted in a proper manner. Regardless of political parties, at least four independent candidates ran. The majority of candidates were from outside the party political system.

During the nomination period for the 2011 presidential election, there was some discussion about the need to reform the process. By contrast, some have argued that the existing process worked well. There was an increased level of activity in city and county councils compared with the nomination periods during previous presidential elections. Many councils listened to presentations from several people seeking nominations other than those whose names were eventually on the ballot paper. Regarding any alternative to the current nomination process, it would be important to give careful consideration to any suggestion that this important constitutional role be taken away from elected members of city and county councils.

It already has been.

I am not directing my comments at any Senator. I am addressing the general arguments of some. While Senator Norris would not hold this view, some may. I appreciate that such a suggestion is not in the 1998 report of the all-party Oireachtas committee of which I was a member, but I wanted to make the point in the context of this discussion.

Some concerns were aired in the run up to the 2011 election to the effect that the nomination process was too restrictive. There were voices of concern about the possibility that candidates of real potential would fail at the first hurdle. None did. The All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution, in its third progress report, addressed 19 issues relating to the Presidency, including the question of whether the procedure for nominating a presidential candidate was too restrictive. The committee was of the view that the constitutional requirements for nominating a presidential candidate were too restrictive and in need of democratisation. Before I briefly explore the recommendations of the committee, I would point out that we made those recommendations 14 years ago and without the experiences of the 2011 presidential election.

In the 1998 report, the committee, which was chaired by the late Brian Lenihan, recommended two measures to "loosen" the nomination procedure. One recommendation was to alter the provisions for indirect nominations so that ten rather than 20 would be the minimum number of Members of the Oireachtas required for nomination. The other recommendation was that provision should be made for popular nomination in addition to nomination by elected members. In making this recommendation, the committee believed that, while the nomination procedure would involve practical difficulties and extra expense, it would be feasible.

The committee recommendation was to provide for popular nomination whereby 10,000 citizens entitled to vote in a presidential election could nominate a candidate. The committee, noting that a popular nomination could leave open the possibility that the office of President could be demeaned by the nomination of frivolous candidates or endangered by the nomination of inadequately qualified ones, listed a number of matters that would need to be included in the law providing for the validation of such popular nominations. For example, it would be necessary to have an adequate validation system for the signatory process. Safeguards would be required to ensure that citizens nominated only one person. As the committee noted, all of this would involve extra expense. In these difficult economic times, we need to tread warily where a measure involves extra expense. We need to consider carefully whether the measure is necessary to achieve our objectives.

Popular nomination could be seen to imply a greater degree of direct democracy in the nomination process. The engagement of the majority of city and county councils in the nomination process in 2011 was very good for democracy. All council members are elected. Drama was added to the occasion when some candidates were nominated at the last possible opportunity. It was the focus of attention in every news bulletin. The candidates were not refused their nominations. The council selection procedure implied that one needed a degree of appeal over and above the appeal of others to gain a nomination.

Systems for popular nomination of presidential candidates operate in Austria, Finland and Portugal. As such, there are models for examination. On the other hand, there are countries that do not provide for such popular nomination and where arrangements are similar to those in Ireland.

Two of the constitutional provisions relating to the election of the President are prioritised in the programme for Government. These will be considered by the convention on the Constitution. Last week in the Houses, resolutions were passed approving the calling of the convention. The convention will consider the following matters, make such recommendations as it sees fit and report on them to the Houses — reducing the presidential term of office to five years and aligning it with the local and European elections; reducing the voting age to 17 years; review of the Dáil electoral system; giving citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in presidential elections at Irish Embassies or otherwise; provision for same-sex marriage; amending the clause on the role of women in the home and encouraging greater participation of women in public life; increasing the participation of women in politics; and removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. Following completion of the above reports, the convention may report to the Oireachtas on such other relevant constitutional amendments that may be recommended by it.

As the Taoiseach made clear in the Dáil last week, the Government is prepared to consider calls for an even more comprehensive work programme for the convention. He stated:

. . . we are prepared to consider whether other topics could be considered at a later date. We will review this in the light of experience and the Tánaiste and I will consult with Opposition representatives and the chairperson of the convention at the appropriate time.

The Taoiseach remarked that the inclusion of additional topics could have implications for the timeframe within which the convention must complete its work. He noted that concerns had already been expressed that it would have insufficient time to complete the work programme outlined.

The Government is of the view that the timeframe proposed in the resolution is appropriate, given the current work programme. However, the Government is prepared to review the timeframe in the light of experience and any future change to the work programme. This review will be undertaken in consultation with representatives of the Opposition parties. It is clear that the convention has a full programme of work, but the option of reporting on other relevant constitutional amendments is open to it. The Government does not propose at this early stage to add the presidential nomination process to the list of items to be considered and recommended upon by the convention. However, it could be considered by the convention in due course or by the Government alongside any recommendation relating to the election of the President that might be made by the convention. Let us wait and see therefore what emerges from the work of the convention. I wish members of the convention well in their deliberations and look forward to receiving their reports.

I welcome this debate and I am delighted that Senators Norris and Barrett tabled this motion for discussion. While it is not of immediate importance at this stage — and hopefully it will be seven years before we have another presidential election — we are pleased to have President Michael D. Higgins in office. I am sure the matter is worthy of discussion at this point because there is plenty of time to do so.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and liked what he had to say in his address. I think I am the only one here who can remember being on my father's shoulders watching President Seán T. O'Kelly on his inauguration day. There is certainly nobody else in the House who was around then, not even Senator Norris.

I have seen President Seán T. O'Kelly, but not from your father's shoulders.

Yes but I am talking about the day on which he was inaugurated.

We have a healthy democracy and it has been helped by the 1937 Constitution. The fact that it has lasted so long is a reminder of what a great deal it contains. The fact that there were seven candidates in the last presidential election shows what a demand there is for the office and how it is regarded. That does not stop us from re-examining it and asking whether changes should be made. We should consider the flaws, also, and we all remember the difficulty that arose last year when those candidates were trying to get elected. It seems to me, as someone from the Independent benches, that the process is biased against Independent presidential candidates and is clearly in favour of party candidates. Senator Norris has explained that.

It is an interesting proposal to bring to the issue because it is usually only heard around the time of a presidential election. Politicians usually have to worry about other matters, such as the economy or the financial crisis. I know this matter is of great importance to Senator Norris who encountered considerable difficulty in securing a nomination last year. It is obvious that politicians are already tainted by influences, including personal and party ones, which can make nomination for the Presidency very difficult.

I certainly hope the Seanad will not be abolished. According to what the Taoiseach said here today, it will be up to us to convince the population that they should not accept its abolition. We must earn our keep, however, and must prove that we are worthwhile. It seems that if the Seanad is abolished, however, then the requirement rules will be much changed and it would appear to be much more difficult to secure a presidential nomination. Would that need to be changed to, say, a percentage of Oireachtas Members? Senator Norris has pointed out the difficulties therein.

Can Senators remember anyone in the past who should have been on the ballot paper but did not, or could not, get a nomination? We spoke about the Minister of State's brother, Mr. Neill O'Dowd, for example.

If I am not mistaken, I think I remember a Mr. McCartan back in the 1950s who would have been with Clann na Poblachta but could not get a nomination on that basis.

Dana tried also.

The Senator is right. One could argue that the current system supports the status quo, but it is an interesting question nonetheless. An interesting point is that in countries like France and the United States, there are usually only two or three main candidates who are left in the running, although there may be others to begin with. On the last time out here, we had seven who were all vying for time in the media and equal coverage in debates. Considering that quite a few of them did not reach enough votes to cover their expenses, would this point to the threshold being too low? Should we not introduce another round if there are too many candidates?

On the nomination process, is 35 the right age limit? Why can a person technically become Taoiseach at 21, a position of much greater power than the Presidency, but one cannot be a presidential candidate unless one is 35? Surely in the time of the Internet and online voting, as happens in France with ex-pats, we could allow everyone to put forward their nomination and set a threshold. France utilises unique technology that encrypts and digitally signs online votes before they are cast, directly in the voter's device. The system claims to be able to prevent anyone, including the system's administrators, from violating voter privacy or jeopardising election results.

In the 2012 US elections, more than two dozen states will accept some form of electronic or faxed ballots, mostly from military or overseas voters. Estonia was an early adopter of this technology; a record 25% of voters there cast Internet ballots in 2011. In Ireland, we claim to be at the cutting-edge when it comes to technology, so we should be doing the presidential nomination and subsequent election in this manner. Has the Minister of State studied the Estonian and French examples? If not, I suggest he should do so. This is the way to go in all electoral processes. It is possible to examine what other countries have done and learn from them.

The constitutional convention will be looking at such matters, but I suggest that we should not limit ourselves to the restrictive proposals or suggestions that have been made. We are not limited to them, of course. In the forthcoming convention, we will have an opportunity to re-examine these matters. This debate has been useful, helpful and worthy of the consideration of the constitutional convention.

I welcome the Minister of State to the Chamber. I have given this Private Members' motion a great deal of thought. It is fair to try to discern the intentions of the Senator in the motion and I welcome the opportunity to do just that. Having carefully examined the motion, I find that, in principle, there is nothing in it with which I cannot agree. However, we are constrained to consider the words of the motion before us, as opposed to the intention that lies behind it. The motion makes some fairly sweeping statements, particularly the second paragraph which states that public support for the move proposed in the motion has been clearly demonstrated. I am fairly certain that Senator Norris might be in a position to make such a claim, following his candidature in the recent presidential election. I have to add that he conducted himself with honour and grace throughout his campaign. I am not so certain, however, that this claim can be universally and objectively verified.

The motion's assertion that there is unanimous support among professional commentators and constitutional experts, which was expressed during the 2011 presidential campaign, cannot be universally accepted either. I admit there is much support for what is contained in the motion but it perhaps overstates the level of that support. It is entirely uncharacteristic of Senator Norris to overstate any position.

Likewise, the motion states that the presidential term of office is of less significance than the nomination process. I am not sure that I can agree with this. Far be it from me to be even mildly critical of the esteemed Senator, but it seems that in this motion the Senator is attempting to have his cake and eat it also. In the first instance it calls for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to bring the recommendations contained in the 1998 report — which I see the Minister co-authored — to Government for immediate implementation. Failing this, it calls for the recommendations to be brought before the constitutional convention. I do not think the Senator can have it both ways.

I have read the report and agree that it makes some interesting observations about the nomination process. I would find it hard to disagree with many of the recommendations. The comparisons with other jurisdictions make for interesting reading as well.

I note that Finland and Portugal have in place a nomination process similar to the one proposed in the motion. There is some merit in exploring this, but the motion seems to be pointing to the fact that it is difficult to secure a nomination. While it is undoubtedly difficult for Independent candidates to secure such a nomination, it is not impossible. The fact that there were seven candidates in the most recent election, gives the lie to this claim. I would argue that the nomination process — as the Minister of State and others have said — adds to the level of engagement among the public and the electorate in the democratic process. Anything that increases democratic involvement and engagement is to be welcomed.

This proposal is something that on another occasion I might well be minded to support. However, I feel that the motion is poorly constructed. It is also ambiguous and, unfortunately, untimely. The parameters of the constitutional convention have been established and interference with those terms at this stage will be the cause of unnecessary confusion and a deflection from the primary aims of the constitutional convention as envisaged. The terms of the constitutional convention have long been signalled and the Senator has probably missed the boat on this occasion. It seems to me also that for the Government to embrace the motion outside the terms of the constitutional convention would be akin to the Government considering other important constitutional issues outside of the convention also, which is something with which I have great difficulty. If it is too late to change the terms of the constitutional convention then the motion on this occasion must fail. Perhaps the Senator could attempt to have the matter contained in the motion included in a further phase of the convention, as the Taoiseach outlined in the Dáil last week that other work may be assigned to it. Of course the Senator would have to improve the construction of the motion. Unfortunately on this occasion I will be unable to support it.

Senator Mooney's time has arrived and he has six minutes.

I know I can always rely on a good friend to ensure our interests are looked after. I welcome the motion which is timely and I congratulate Senator Norris, particularly in light of the opening paragraph in which he refers to the repeated promises of the Government to provide "openness, transparency, accountability and democracy". My colleague, Senator Wilson, has already addressed these issues with regard to all of the Government's proposals to deconstruct democratic institutions in the country.

I want to refer specifically to a number of the items included by Senator Norris in the generality of his motion, such as the 1998 third progress report of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee on the Constitution. There have been at least three if not four all-party constitutional committees since 1937. There was one in the 1960s and two in the 1990s, including the O'Keeffe committee and the most recent committee which was chaired by the late Brian Lenihan. This begs the question as to why we are having a debate on the form of the constitutional convention being established by the Government. I would not be against the notion that the Constitution needs to be put under urgent review. However, when one looks at the meat and drink of it, there might be drink but there is no meat. Senator Norris is right in this regard and he is correct to bring forward these proposals which the Government might consider, irrespective of the timeframe involved.

I wish to refer to two issues which exercised the minds of the all-party committee and the Minister of State, Deputy O'Dowd, referred to the fact he was a member of one of the committees. I should have had the good manners to welcome him to the House. I had the pleasure and honour of serving with him in the House and he has done well since, as I have often said, and well done to him.

With regard to nominations for presidential elections, there was a suggestion that 20,000 citizens would be able to sign a nomination paper. I am not sure whether the all-party committee recommended any change but it was moving towards accepting this recommendation and perhaps it might open it up. I believe it also recommended that ten Members of the Oireachtas could propose a nominee. I hope the constitutional convention will deal with this matter. I ask the Minister of State to correct me if I am wrong, but I believe there is flexibility built into the constitutional convention whereby after it has dealt with the specific issues referred to, it can take on other issues. I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy O'Sullivan, to the House and I thank Deputy O'Dowd for his contribution. There is merit to considering loosening up the rather restrictive nature of the nomination process. Senator Gilroy was the most recent speaker to make the point that restrictive as it may seem theoretically in practice it works rather well, in that the local authorities, showing they have some independence from the party system in this regard, nominated Dana Rosemary Scallon in the two most recent presidential elections.

Many congratulatory remarks have been made about the present incumbent in Áras an Uachtaráin and I endorse them. I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with President Higgins on a variety of committees when he was a Member of the Houses, particularly the committee dealing with foreign affairs. I always found him to be engaging and stimulating in his conversation and wonderful company. However, I should put on the record that Senator Norris because of his particular travails and Sean Gallagher can probably feel somewhat aggrieved at the manner in which the election campaign went. It is said that timing is everything in politics and President Higgins is now in office having been elected by the people, but it would be remiss of me if I did not say when the history of the election campaign comes to be written it will be seen to have had particular dimensions which impacted on Senator Norris and Sean Gallagher. This is not in any way to deflect from the dignity of the office of the President or the incumbent whom I wish well.

Another issue dealt with by the all-party committee was the question of an honours system. I remember when President Higgins was the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht we debated the National Cultural Institutions Bill in the late 1990s and discussed an honours system. He was not in favour of it, being a good republican socialist. However, it is interesting that in all of the debates that have taken place, including drafts of the original 1937 Constitution and the subsequent debate in the Dáil during which the then Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, did not demur from the notion there should be an honours system which would be inaugurated and executed by the President. During the Dáil debate the reference to an honours system was deleted, but on the basis the door would not be closed entirely. However, it was never revisited. We should have an honours system and it should be a resurrection of the old Order of St. Patrick——

——which is an honourable order. If one goes to St. Patrick's Hall in Dublin Castle one will see the various flags of the recipients of the old Order of St. Patrick. It was abolished in 1921 and I see no reason it should not be reintroduced. Every other country has an honours system. The most republican of republics, France, has a far more elaborate honours system than even the monarchical system in the UK. However, it has retained its stout independence and presents itself as a republic. It does not in any way feel compromised by orders, many of which were inherited from the nobility. I am not speaking about the nobility, but the debate seems to centre on nobility and orders of merit. Perhaps at some stage if there is some way of nudging the constitutional convention into other matters, which it will inevitably discuss, these other matters might include the question of an honours system and I put it out there for what it is.

The motion is timely. Whether it is flawed is a subjective view. Senator Norris has done the House a favour in keeping the item on the agenda and I applaud him for it. I hope the motion is accepted. As a result of this debate the Government may reflect on it and perhaps influence the constitutional convention to examine some of the issues raised on all sides of the House.

I thank Senator Norris for tabling this important motion which we support and we ask the Government to also support it. I wish to make a number of broad remarks about the constitutional convention. Senator Gilroy mentioned the fact that the parameters have been set by the Government and he is correct. He then went on to state that perhaps Senator Norris has missed the boat. The Government has missed the boat in my view in a number of areas by not including what are very important topics in the constitutional convention. Many people would see it as a very big missed opportunity. The Government has limited the convention too much to allow it to have any real effect. If we are to be honest, many of the issues it will discuss are uncontroversial. It is possible that some of the outcomes are already predetermined and the matter will end up being a sideshow. In reality it should have been something completely different. It should have been a real opportunity for the State to have a conversation about the type of republic that we live in and how it has dealt with the social, economic and human rights which are important to many of us. That could have been central to any discussion on a new Constitution or new Republic, which many people talk about. When it gets down to it we will have watered down what the convention could and should have done.

The convention is a missed opportunity. All of the parties will engage within the set parameters and once the convention has been set up there will be a responsibility placed on us to engage. We must be honest and state that the Government has missed the boat for whatever reason, which is deeply regrettable.

The role of the President of Ireland is an important and symbolic one. A number of previous Senators mentioned that many candidates were put through the ringer during the last presidential campaign, not just the two candidates mentioned by Senator Mooney. I can say that Martin McGuinness sometimes got fair and unfair criticism from the media.

Many people would ask whether that type of campaign would put people off standing for the presidency in the future.

It might put off some.

I am pleased that Seán Gallagher was not elected and I am pleased that the person in the Áras has been elected.

You made sure that he was not.

Senator Cullinane please, without interruption.

I know it is a sore point for Fianna Fáil that its proxy candidate was not elected——

No, on a personal and human level. It had nothing to go with Fianna Fáil.

——and that is unfortunate.

He was not a Fianna Fáil candidate.

I am glad that we do not have a Fianna Fáil President.

On a point of order, purely to correct the record.

That is not a point of order, with respect.

For the record, Mr. Gallagher was not a Fianna Fáil candidate.

I thank the Senator for the clarification. It is important.

It is important.

It is important to Mr. Gallagher and to his family but the Senator does not have to think about them.

A number of the candidates received unfair treatment from the media and this played a central role in the presidential campaign. The media must reflect on how it values the role of the presidency and how it approaches future presidential elections.

We support the motion but add that it is far from the only reform that needs to be made as regards the presidency. We have no difficulty with amending the nomination process. It needs to be done. It would have been a scandal if candidates who wanted to put their names forward were not in a position to do so. Some of them had genuine difficulties trying to get the requisite number of signatories from Oireachtas Members to allow them to stand. At one point it looked like some of them, who went on to get a respectable vote in the presidential campaign, may not have had the opportunity due to the strict and narrow nomination process. That process needs reform. The best place to examine and tease out how to change the process while protecting the Office of the Presidency is the constitutional convention and that is why I support the motion.

Sinn Féin tabled its first Private Members' Bill last November which dealt with the presidency. We raised a number of issues then that we also asked the constitutional convention to deal with. One is that all Irish citizens would have a vote in the presidential election. That would mean extending the vote to citizens who live in the North of Ireland and it would include people who see themselves as Irish, British or both. In our view every citizen or person born on the island of Ireland should have a vote in the presidential election. Every citizen who lives abroad should also have a vote in the presidential election. Ireland would not be on its own in this regard as many European countries allow their citizens to vote in presidential elections. Recently the Czech Republic held a presidential election and people queued in order to vote.

That is right.

It is an important area that the Government could examine. Some people would argue that one cannot have representation without taxation but the role of the President does not have any powers or functions over taxation and it is an important but symbolic role. The President embodies what is best in Irish people and we should allow all Irish people to participate.

Especially given that over 100,000 have been forced to leave our shore. They should not be denied an opportunity to vote for their President. Such a measure is important.

The age limit for the presidential election should be examined. The provision regarding 35 years is arbitrary. It exists because people feel that a president should have life experience but 35 years is too high. Surely it is up to the people to decide whether a candidate who is 25 or 30 years old does not have enough life experience and would not unsuitable for the presidency. It should be up to them to make the decision. I am sure that there are many younger people with plenty of life experience who are also qualified to be President if given the opportunity. That issue also needs to be examined.

I support the motion. It is simple and uncontroversial and I do not see why it has not been accepted. It is one of those matters that should have been examined by the convention along with many other issues. It is unfortunate that is has not been. If the motion is challenged by the Government please accept that my party will vote in favour of it.

As there are no further Senators indicating to speak I call on Senator Norris to conclude.

I find it regrettable and disappointing that the debate has effectively collapsed despite the presence of other Senators who have not spoken and, in particular, the fact that there was such a small representation on the Government's side. I think there was only one.

Quality, not quantity.

There was only one speaker from each of the coalition parties. That appears to me to be a deliberate policy on the part of Government and it stifled debate. It did same thing when we debated the constitutional convention and is a matter of deep regret.

On a point of information, I want to correct the record.

There are no points of information.

The Acting Chairman has allowed me to speak. Let it be a point of order then.

Yes but the Senator also made other remarks and she was completely——

There has been no attempt to stifle anybody.

That is not a point of order.

Well, whatever it is.

That is not a point of order. I call on Senator Norris to continue.

I am making a political point but I am being interrupted. I am surprised that the Acting Chairman supported the Senator who claimed her comment was based on a point of information. There is no such provision in the Standing Orders.

The Senator corrected herself and she said that it was a point of order. She said "a point of order."

It was not a point of order.

That is for the Acting Chairman to decide.

I said that it was not a point of order.

I shall move on because I do not wish to be contentious. The amendment presented by the Government is an insult to the House and to the intelligence of its Members. Senator Gilroy chose to criticise.

It was about the motion.

Senator Norris please, without interruption.

Has Senator Gilroy finished amending my words?

For the time being.

The Senator chose to question the construction of my motion on the basis that I referred to the unanimous support of professional commentators. He did so without producing one who did not or who objected to the kind of proposals being made. I am aware of nobody who suggests that it was inappropriate and it was widely canvassed and discussed during the election. If the Senator can produce such a person then I would be happy to listen.

On a point of order, by the same argument if we apply his logic then Senator Norris would be required to produce all of the experts. If I have to produce one then he must produce them all using the same logic.

I ask Senator Norris to conclude.

I also referred to the clearly demonstrated public support. I did not say that it was unanimous but it was very clear that there was a considerable interest in the matter.

I shall return to the amendment. I welcome the fact that Senator Gilroy approved of certain aspects despite giving himself some camouflage by picking holes in the language. I would be happy to joust with him on that aspect but I do not want to waste time. It is insulting just to recite existing facts. I note the Constitution of Ireland sets out the requirements for the nomination of candidates to the office of President of Ireland. What information, that people are not aware of, does that bring to the House? Every schoolchild in the land is aware of this fact. It is an insult to produce this as if it was an argument. One might as well say this country is Ireland and Seanad Éireann notes that the country is called Ireland. It is as fatuous, as empty and as flatulent as that.

I note in the 2011 presidential election, seven candidates, the highest ever number, were validly nominated in spite of everything that was done by the political parties. I make an exception in the case of the honourable example of the then Deputy Michael D. Higgins, an old colleague of mine.

Did the Labour Party not facilitate the Senator?

Senator Norris, without interruption.

It was very clear the political parties did everything they possibly could to inhibit this and they attempted to secure the nomination of an agreed candidate.

This is not true. That is ungracious of the Senator.

Senator Norris, without interruption.

The question of the constitutional convention was raised. There is a real contradiction. We were told we had missed the boat but we could still throw in this topic for consideration by the constitutional convention. Many people avoided the real issues.

I am not referring to myself. I am not aggrieved by any of the political side of things. Certainly, I have an issue with the media and I will return to the point on another occasion but I specifically excluded that from this debate because I wanted to confine myself to a discussion of the principles. Can a single Member defend the fact that the political parties with their huge resources are permitting donations from individuals three times the amount that individuals who have to fund a campaign out of their own resources, and that the parties are allowed to exempt contributions in kind, such as postering, transport and all the rest under the standards in public office legislation? In other words there is a clear, deliberate and massive financial disadvantage deliberately placed on individual citizens by the parties. That is inarguable. That is a mathematical fact. It is not a question of how I phrased it, which people may be picky about if they wish. It is a mathematical fact.

Will Senator Norris conclude please?

This is a scandal and a disgrace. I am astonished that anybody can stand over it. In America, they like to say that anybody could be President of America. One can if one can buy it. It is going that way in this country too.

I am not making any retrospective claims for myself. In the future why should standing for office be a matter of how much money one has? Why should people from ordinary backgrounds be disenfranchised in this manner from the highest office in the State?

Amendment put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 15.

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Brennan, Terry.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Comiskey, Michael.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • D’Arcy, Jim.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Harte, Jimmy.
  • Hayden, Aideen.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • Henry, Imelda.
  • Higgins, Lorraine.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Moloney, Marie.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O’Keeffe, Susan.
  • O’Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Whelan, John.

Níl

  • Barrett, Sean D.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Susan O’Keeffe; Níl, Senators Sean D. Barrett and David Norris.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.