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Victory in Supreme Court on Seanad Votes for UL students

03.04.2023
Victory in Supreme Court on Seanad Votes for UL students Victory in Supreme Court on Seanad Votes for UL students

Congratulations to UL graduate Tomás Heneghan who took the case and to UL School of Law’s Dr Laura Cahillane who acted as expert witness in the case where it was argued that the current situation which denies rights of voting in Seanad elections to UL graduates was unconstitutional.

The Constitution currently only gives a right to NUI and TCD graduates to vote in Seanad elections, as the only such institutions in existence at the time of its enactment. An amendment passed in 1979 would have allowed for this to be extended but it was never acted upon. The Supreme Court agreed that this state of affairs was unconstitutional.

Dr Cahillane said: “Every year, teaching constitutional law in UL I explain this to my students, and they are perplexed as to why they do not get a vote simply due to happenstance in terms of which university they decided to attend and due to inaction on the part of the Government to change this.

Tomás Heneghan, a graduate of UL, felt very strongly about the inequality of this situation and so he took a case, initially as a lay litigant but then with the Free Legal Advice Centres coming on board as legal representation.

Today Tomás has won his case in the Supreme Court, which has found that the 1979 amendment must be implemented to allow Seanad votes for all third level institutions. I was delighted to act as an expert witness for the Court, giving evidence on the history of the Seanad provisions and on the context around the amendment in 1979. The judgments are hugely significant with ramifications for the future interpretation of the Constitution but on a practical level it will mean a lot of work now for government to put in place a fair voting system as soon as possible. It may even prove to be an impetus to proceed with Seanad reform more generally, which is also well past overdue. The case can be regarded as a victory for democracy and a lesson about the importance of the voice of the people.”