Radical plans to reform Ireland’s Senate have been proposed – including a vote for emigrants and Northern Irish and  parity for women in the upper house of the Irish parliament.

The Seanad (Senate) Reform Bill was unveiled over the weekend by senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone.

It is proposed as an alternative to government plans to abolish the senate and will be debated in the house on Wednesday.

Former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and former senator Joe O’Toole have backed the proposals.

The Irish Times reports that the Bill proposes to give every citizen a vote in Seanad elections and also proposes to extend the franchise to emigrants and people living in Northern Ireland.

The Bill also says that the make-up of a reformed Seanad should be half female and half male and that the salary paid to senators should be half that of TDs.

The report says the process of nominating candidates would be radically changed, allowing individuals to be nominated by popular support.

The proposals would give a range of additional powers to the Seanad in the scrutiny of legislation, the examination of public appointments as well as the holding of inquiries.

Quinn told the Irish Times that the bill would provide for radical and far-reaching reforms of Seanad Éireann without the need for an expensive referendum.

He said: “Too many of the best and brightest of the next generation have had to depart our shores out of sheer economic necessity.

“I passionately believe that these young people, like other emigrants, are entitled to a voice in our national parliament.”

Zappone told the paper that the Irish system of government was broken but abolishing the Seanad would only strengthen and underpin the worst parts of that system.

She said: “A new Seanad can help reform and fix the way we conduct our affairs of state. It can provide the accountability, the new ideas and the questions we so urgently need.

“I hope the Bill gets a proper hearing. Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein will support it and I hope enough Government senators will vote to ensure it would get a committee stage debate.

“The possibility of a reformed Seanad should provide a strong reason for people to vote No to the government’s plans to abolish the chamber.”

DCU Professor Gary Murphy added that the Government’s proposal to abolish the Seanad did not represent reform.

He said: “Rather it is a cull to a vital aspect of our constitutional democracy but it is an arm of our democracy that is not working to its full potential.”

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