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Seanad Debates Through the Decades


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The debates held in the Seanad since 1922 reflect some of the thorny questions that Ireland has grappled with during the past 100 years.

We have selected a notable debate from each decade to give a window into some of the issues that have come to the fore since the foundation of the State.

Photo of W.B. Yeats

Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland


Divorce legislation

“Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds you open the way for every kind of intolerance and for every kind of religious persecution.”

— W.B. Yeats

Portrait photo of Colonel Maurice Moore

Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland


Constitution (Removal of Oath) Bill

“I should remind the Seanad that this is not the only Upper House that has come into conflict with the popular Chamber. In England the House of Lords got into a controversy with the House of Commons, the result being that powers were taken away from the Lords.”

— Colonel Maurice Moore

Portrait photo of Sir John Keane

© National Portrait Gallery, London CC BY NC ND 3.0



“Now, it has been suggested that I, on account of my rather bad reputation, am about to make another attack upon our moral stronghold. I can assure you that there is nothing of that kind in this motion.”

— Sir John Keane 

Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland


Punishment in Primary Schools

“It is my personal view that beating children never does any good. I believe that it frequently does harm.”

— Owen Sheehy Skeffington

Photo of Garrett FitzGerald

Courtesy of Fine Gael


Irish Membership of EEC

“If the Government fail to pursue this aim as thoroughly and as efficiently as we think is desirable, we will be pressing them from behind…It will do no harm to our position in Brussels and in this country if it is seen that this House is concerned about this matter.”

Garrett FitzGerald

Photo of Mary Robinson

Image: RollingNews


Family Planning Bill

“I make this final appeal: let us as Senators confer on ourselves the jurisdiction to debate what every other forum in the country has debated. Let us not shirk the issue.”

Mary Robinson

Photo of Katherine Bulbulia

Courtesy of Fine Gael


Information and Education Programme on AIDS

“I am pleased this House has had this debate. I hope that some good will come of it and that the Minister will feel encouraged and emboldened and will decide to be more explicit, more up front and more dynamic about this matter.”

— Katharine Bulbulia

Photo of David Norris

Image: RollingNews


European Court of Human Rights Judgment

“The laws under which I have lived out my 46 years of life are the exact and direct parallel of the Penal Laws which discriminated against Roman Catholics in this country, to the shame of the then Government.”

David Norris

Photo of Mary Henry

Image: RollingNews


Family Law

“The Constitution consigns the growing number of alternative family forms, such as non-marital partners and lone, unmarried parents and their children, to a legal no-man's land.”

Mary Henry

Photo of Mark Daly

© Mark Daly CC BY 4.0


Irish Sign Language Bill

“This is a civil rights issue. It is about giving equal opportunity to members of the deaf community to be full citizens of the State.”

Mark Daly

Photo of Alice Mary Higgins

© Alice Mary Higgins CC BY 4.0


TRIPS Waiver

“We all know people who have caught Covid in the past month or week. It is spreading very rapidly across Europe, including in the UK and Ireland. Imagine the circumstances in a country in which only 5% of the population are vaccinated. In such a country, not only are more people catching the virus, but more are dying from it.”

— Alice-Mary Higgins