No Seanad vote for UL graduates

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University of Limerick Campus. Picture: Alan Place

by Bernie English

[email protected]

THE HIGH Court has rejected a claim by a University of Limerick graduate that denying third level institutions other than Trinity College and the National University of Ireland the right to vote in Seanad elections is unconstitutional.

Tomás Heneghan claimed the State’s failure to facilitate his registration as an elector was unlawful, unconstitutional and a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The three-judge court found Mr Heneghan had not established an entitlement in any of the issues he raised.

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Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said the court concluded that the system for the election of the 43 vocational panel senators and the system for the election of the six university panel senators were valid.

It also rejected his claim that Irish law is inconsistent with the State’s obligations under the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Heneghan of Church Square, East Wall, Dublin, had claimed that as a University of Limerick graduate he was not entitled to vote on the panel set aside for graduates of the National University of Ireland (NUI) or the panel selected by registered graduates of Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Among his arguments, he said there had been a failure by the State to extend the voting franchise to other universities arising out of the 1979 amendment to the Constitution expressly stating that it should be extended.

Another issue was whether sections of the Seanad Electoral (Universities Members) Act were unconstitutional in precluding UL graduates while permitting NUI and TCD graduates to vote.

A third issue was whether the provisions of the Act were incompatible with the right to free elections and prohibition on discrimination provisions of the ECHR.

A fourth issue, which was argued by the State’s legal team, was whether the election of members of the Seanad is a power reserved to members of the Oireachtas under the Constitution and therefore Mr Heneghan’s claim was not justiciable.

Ruling against Mr Heneghan, Mr Justice O’Moore said that his evidence involved  “assertion, anecdote or argument.”

A spokesperson for the University of Limerick said they were not commenting on the decision.