Ask the candidates
This website will be regularly updated with responses from the candidates.
Q: Affordability and availability of housing is a key element in attracting top academics to Ireland. What can be done to remove this disincentive to coming to teach in Ireland?
A: David Norris
'Housing is a massive problem especially for the poorer sections of society and the homeless. I feel that their needs should be addressed first by national government and local authorities. While I sympathize with itinerant academics, especially those with families, I assume that "top academics" get reasonable salaries and so must enter the market with everyone else however difficult this may be from time to time.'
A: Ivana Bacik
'I believe that universities and colleges must come up with creative ways to deal with this particular issue - clearly housing affordability is a much bigger issue for Irish society generally and is not just a concern for attracting academics to Ireland. However, where possible, use could be made by universities of campus or other temporary rental accommodation at least as a temporary option; and support could be provided in accessing the rental and house purchase market for new academics coming from abroad.'
A: Eoin Meehan
'I think this is a problem that affects all professions trying to attract top talent to relocate to Ireland, not just academics.
I guess that most people wishing to relocate to Ireland will rent for a few years until they feel comfortable, so it’s probably the rental market that most affects their decision. Some international companies buy apartments and houses close by, which they rent to their staff at an affordable rate for the short to medium term until they decide where they want to live. When they move out, these houses become available to the next “tranche” of staff.
I think colleges will have to take a more innovative approach to solving the housing issue and use it as part of the package offered to prospective staff. Subsidies, or allowances I think will not help matters. If a landlord heard someone was moving into work in a certain college and knew that college offered an allowance, it would simply be added to the rent as more profit for the landlord.
So the solution, I believe, will be part of a wider solution to the general affordability and accessibility issue in Ireland.'
A: Sean Barrett
'Ultimately housing and accommodation is a serious consideration for all employers. The housing crisis has dramatically increased costs for households and will act as a deterrent for prospective employees contemplating employment in Ireland.
I have proposed two items of legislative on housing and accommodation: The Mortgage Credit (Loans and Bonds) Bill 2012 and the National Mortgage and Housing Corporation Bill 2015. They can be found here and here.
While these are not complete solutions they do offer potential avenues to reduce costs of housing and allow for supports to pay for subsidized housing and accommodation.
More locally, Cambridge University has worked on building subsidised housing which exists for academic and support staff as a method of addressing the accommodation cost wedge created by Cambridge being part of the London catchment area. My proposed legislation would enable higher education institutions to act in this capacity.'
A: Ethna Tinney
'My intention to persuade government to set up a state bank (Mortgage Credit Corporation) if successful will reintroduce competition in the banking mortgage prices, driving the current sky-high interest rates of our cartel banks significantly down, thus increasing affordability for anyone who wants to come to work in Ireland.'
A: Sean Melly
'Possible solutions include: Accommodation allowances for visiting top academics and/or appropriate campus accommodation for visiting academics.'
Q: If you had to choose between running for the Dáil and the Seanad, which would you choose and why?
A: Ivana Bacik
'I did not run for the Dáil in this general election, and instead chose to run for the Seanad, because I believe that I have used the Seanad very effectively until now – and I hope to continue doing that if re-elected. In particular, I have had three private members bills accepted by Government which are now law – a record for any Senator –a bill to prohibit FGM; a bill to legalise Humanist wedding ceremonies, and a bill to amend section 37 of the Employment Equality Act so a to prevent discrimination against LGBT teachers. I have other bills that have been accepted by Government which I wish to see through the legislative process if re-elected; including a bill to provide freelance workers with collective bargaining rights. Finally, if re-elected I want to use the Seanad to make progress on the holding of a referendum for repeal of the 8th Amendment.'
A: Sean Melly
'The Seanad. There needs to be more business people in the Oireachtas and I want to be the voice of business in the Seanad.
I chose to run for the Seanad because I can bring my experience and expertise as a successful businessman the upper house in order to deal with national and international financial issues that affect Ireland.'
A: Tom Clonan
'I made a decision to run exclusively for the Senate for a very particular reason. The Dail has concentrated almost completely on the economic recovery of the state. The Senate needs to be the engine for Ireland's social, ethical and intellectual recovery. Quite simply, our society is broken. I know this as the father and carer of a young man with a neuromuscular illness who has lost almost all of his supports to economic cuts and the Dail-backed narrative of 'Austerity'. My son has been disabled by the ethical and intellectual failings of Dail Eireann. The Senate was the chamber in which the equality agenda for our LGBT brothers and sisters was launched and supported. As a Senator, I want to do the same for our disabled brothers and sisters - to campaign for their inalienable rights to autonomy, happiness and equality.'
A: Sean Barrett
'I have always desired to be part of the Seanad, representing Trinity College in the tradition of my predecessors. I have never had any ambition or desire to be a member of the Dáil or a member of one of the political parties. The role of the Trintiy Senator, in my view, is to be an independent voice in the Oireachtas. I feel that I have a role to play in the Seanad which has a more deliberative approach to policy formation.'
A: David Norris
'I have always chosen the Seanad because that is where I feel that as an independent I would have the greatest impact. I kept to this position even when I was approached by a group of business people some years ago who claimed to have found a constituency in which they believed, after research, that I would have taken a seat. I am fully committed to Seanad Eireann.'
A: Lynn Ruane
'I am running for the Seanad as I believe that the unusual nature of the university constituencies presents a unique opportunity.
Due to the nature of how elections for the Dáil are conducted, many deputies in the house spend a huge amount of time on constituency work and are unable to act as truly national representatives. If elected to the TCD panel, I believe that I will be able to act as a representative for Ireland on a national scale and act in the interests of the Irish people as a whole, rather than just represent a narrow, geographical constituency.
Moreover, the Seanad’s university panels represent a far more financially viable route into national politics than running for the Dáil. As a single mother on a low income, I would not be able to afford the considerable expense of running in a general election. The low barriers of entry in a Seanad race means that candidates like myself can be elected to national office and contribute to national debate without the financial backing of a national party or without huge time commitments to fundraising.
Many thanks for that question, it’s an important one.'
A: Eoin Meehan
'I choose the Seanad. I was asked would I consider running for the Dáil, but I believe the Seanad is an important part of our democratic system, even in its current flawed and neutered state.
TD’s serve a constituency and represent those constituents’ views in the Dáil. TDs of like-minded views form the government (typically as members of political parties). Others form the opposition. TDs have to answer to their local constituencies for decisions they make in the Dáil.
The Seanad is supposed to provide expert legislative oversight to the Dáil, and ensure minority views are not railroaded aside. It is supposed to have a national agenda, and be composed of subject-matter experts. It takes the legislation from the Dáil and “hones” it to ensure it is fit for purpose and fair, and shines a light on any injustices or inequalities it finds.
My expertise would be lost in the Dáil. I want to bring my expertise to bear for the benefit of the entire country. I am in favour of reforming the Seanad to do what it was intended to do.'
A: Ethna Tinney
'For me there is no contest between Dáil and Senate. In the first you have to spend your life looking after constituents, whereas if you run as an independent, like me, for the senate you can devote yourself to matters which concern the whole country'
A: Sabina Brennan
'Absolutely no contest - Seanad.
I believe that the Seanad is uniquely placed to work in the service of vulnerable, forgotten or minority groups. The Seanad is an excellent forum for highlighting issues, for informed debate, and for public consultation.
I chose to run for the Seanad because I want to influence policy and practice, I believe in evidenced-based, person focused reform and I believe that the Seanad allows for a collaborative approach that.'
A: Edward Davitt
'Definitely the Seanad - I am running jointly with Barry Johnston (on the NUI panel) precisely because the University panels are the only elections in which Irish citizens abroad have a vote. We are proposing the Emigrant Manifesto in this election as we believe that these panels offer a unique chance for the voices of emigrants to be heard (this would obviously not be possible or even effective in a standard Dáil constituency election).
I also believe that the Seanad offers a more constructive and appropriate space for the issues I have focused on during my campaign.'
Q: What is your attitude to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the EU and the USA?
A: Edward Davitt
'Basically, I am against the TTIP, and I made it a feature of my speech to the Trinity hustings the other week.
It's central aim, of growing EU-US trade in goods and services through the lowering of non-tariff barriers, means in practice that some of our most treasured EU protections in the areas of environmental and consumer protection, agriculture, data and others would be at risk, not only through the Inter State Dispute Resolution mechanisms (which I do not think will be in the final agreement), but through prior written agreements contained in the deal. I stand with the European Greens in that I am not against trade deals per say, and recognise that protectionism can hurt those it is meant to protect, and others, but I feel that social and environmental considerations need to take a more prominent role.
I'd personally go one step further and suggest that when faced with the extreme environmental degradation human activity is already inflicting on the planet, the aim of increasing intercontinental trade in luxury and other goods among the world's two richest blocs does not strike me as either sustainable, nor in keeping with our recent commitments under the Paris COP21 agreement, which 130 signatory countries are signing this month.'
A: Sabina Brennan
'I believe that a transparent and independent risk/benefit analysis needs to be undertaken. I believe that there is no place for secrecy negotiations and discussions should be public and monitored to ensure that our rights are protected.'
A: William Priestley
'I have serious concerns in relation to the nature and possible consequences of TTIP. Many of the socially progressive bedrocks of the E.U., such as environmental protections, GMO usage and employment policies, will be aggressively challenged by unrestricted competition with America. If elected, I would campaign for an independent report to assess the benefits and risks facing Ireland as a result of TTIP.'
A: Ivana Bacik
'I have concerns about many aspects of the TTIP, and what exactly is proposed within it. Any potential benefits of securing access to the US must be weighed against other concerns, around the secrecy with which the terms of the deal are surrounded; and more generally around the implications of allowing big US multinationals to gain easier access to Ireland. I am wary of the stance taken on TTIP by the European Commission, which has become more inclined to support big business rather than to reflect the ‘social Europe’ favoured by the social democratic and socialist movement in Europe. We have seen real benefits for the environment; for equality; for women’s rights and workers’ rights in Ireland as a result of initiatives taken at European level; but with the political left in retreat, the concern is that the European Commission will represent the interests of big business only. For this reason I believe that all the issues involved in the TTIP need to be negotiated and discussed openly, between democratically elected and accountable representatives both from the US and the EU, so that we can ensure that our rights as Irish and European citizens are adequately protected.'
A. Eoin Meehan
'I wrote a blog post on this issue last October (www.eoinmeehan.com/ttip_should_we_be_afraid)
In principle, trade treaties are usually good things.
The problem with TTIP is that is being negotiated in secret. By the Commission and not the member states.
I have no problem with confidentiality, but total secrecy in cases like this breeds the assumption of the "worst case scenario". And, unfortunately, what is being leaked is not filling me with confidence. One of the main issues is the inclusion of the establishment of an "Investor-State Dispute Settlement" process (ISDS). This is an arbitration tribunal that will be set up outside the normal legal system, but legally binding.
There is further concern that the TTIP treaty will open up national health services to private corporations, who are eager to get a "piece of the action", and over-ride EU food standards.
I don't trust the EC to negotiate this treaty. It's being negotiated in secret, by unelected officials, under pressure from industry lobbyists. I don’t believe our politicians will actually read and fully understand what it is they are asking us to approve.'
A. David Norris
'I am deeply suspicious of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership because of its apparent lack of accountability. There are real fears that it may be used unscrupulously as a beachhead by multinational corporations without the citizens or their representatives having proper access to court challenges. However the pro Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership side argue that since half of Irish exports outside the European Union go to the United States of America if TTIP was approved it would increase growth and new opportunity for Irish businesses.'
A. Oisín Coghlan
'I oppose the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The idea that big companies can sue governments in secret courts for introducing policies that might reduce their future profits is almost unbelievable and certainly undemocratic. But that's exactly what's happening under existing trade treaties: to Canada because Quebec introduced a moratorium on fracking and to Germany because they decided to phase out nuclear power.
Nor do I want chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef. But under TTIP that's exactly what the US would want the EU to allow in to Europe.
In fact the whole treaty is less about expanding trade and more about big companies lobbying in Brussels and Washington lobbying to dumb down corporate regulation and consumer safety. And the EU and the US have been struggling to keep the details of the negotiations as secret as possible - even form MEPs who we elect to hold EU institutions to account.
A: Sean Melly
'Overseas trade is important for a small country like Ireland - we generate most of our revenue from exports - and traditionally have always had a close relationship with the US.
One of the main barriers to trade is regulation/red tape. While, acknowledging that some of this is important (food safety standards etc…), it is also important to look at removing barriers that serve no other purpose but to block ease of trade (EU &US Inspectors having to carry out identical inspections of same pharma companies).
In Agri-Food industry eg- negotiations between EU and US are primarily aimed at harmonising regulations and cutting out duplication. EU still retains its ‘precautionary principle’ as written into treaties- reassured that this means that EU member states will be protected. This principal ensures an appropriate level of environmental and health protection in international negotiations- parachute clause where EU can withdraw products from market which pose a possible health/environmental risk.
We hope that any concerns are adequately addressed when the EU Parliment gets a chance to scrutinise and vote on final TTIP text- which should be 2016/early 2017.'
A. Sean Barrett
'One of the principle reasons for concern relating to TTIP regards the resolution of disputes. Those disputes will be resolved in the ISDS (Investor-State Dispute Settlement). It is a dispute settlement system that sits outside democratic accountability and by the admission of the EU negotiators 63% of the cases heard by the existing ISDS relate to disputes brought by governments. In effect, what I see as one of the greatest threats to any democracy, regulatory capture, would be systematised into the global trade system.
I also have concerns relating to job creation and destruction. The figures on both are suspect but I would have great misgivings about the job creation figures since the figures quoted at the advent of the Eurozone never came to be. We should proceed with caution and expect that unintended consequences will be a reality of TTIP.
David O’Sullivan, EU Ambassador to the US, and former Auditor of the Hist is the public face of the TTIP negotiations in Washington. I would hope that Ambassador O’Sullivan could return to the debating chamber of the GMB to present the case and to respond to concerns on the matter of TTIP; this is a most important debate.'
A: Averil Power
'Improving trade between the EU and US could be very positive for our economy and for consumers. Unnecessary bureaucracy and charges should be eliminated. However, I have serious concerns about TTIP as currently proposed. The EU should not sign up to any trade deal that would compromise the food quality policies of individual member states or the EU as a whole. Public services must be protected. Also the ability of EU Governments, individuals and civil society groups to use economic power (such as sanctions, boycotts and labeling) to protest human rights violations by Governments and companies must be preserved.'
A: Lynn Ruane
'I don’t accept that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a trade agreement that is being negotiated in Ireland's public interest. The sheer number of civil society organisations that have pointed out the anti-democratic nature of the negotiations is reason enough to see it halted altogether. You only have to scratch the surface to see that the TTIP in it's current form seeks to increase the profit-making abilities of already wealthy and power corporations at the expense of citizens.
The idea of giving the equivalent of sovereign state legal status to transnational corporations is one that should not sit well with any of us. Public opposition to this ‘Trojan Horse’ style change would be significant if the information was well known in the public sphere. In terms of education, the ‘for profit’ lobby that has swept the United States education system (and has subsequently been discredited) cannot be allowed to steer our education system further towards the market. For this reason and many others, I would oppose TTIP as a senator and instead focus on how improvements can be made to public services, democratic standards, food standards etc. on a national level, rather than through an international trade agreement.'
Q: One of the most effective things the last Seanad did was the convening of a Seanad Public Consultation Committee on the Rights of Older People and the production of a Seanad Report with strong recommendations on the same. The Seanad is uniquely suited to such non-partisan collaborative work in the service of sub-groups of citizens whose voices are seldom heard.
My question is whether Seanad candidates would consider convening a Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Family Carers?
A: Tom Clonan
'I would be in favour of convening a Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Family Carers. I am a Family Carer and care for my son who suffers from a serious Neuromuscular Disease. I know at first hand how bleak things are for carers and the disabled - particularly in the wake of 'Austerity' and cuts to health.
One of the principal reasons I am running for the Seanad as an Independent Candidate and Carer - is to transform the narrative around disability, carers and human rights and equality. If elected, I will do everything in my power, as a Senator, Parent and Carer to remedy the cuts and harm done to disabled children and adults.'
A: Ivana Bacik
'I would be very happy to support a Seanad Public Consultation hearing on family carers, I believe this would be an excellent choice of topic for the Seanad PCC to consider. I was a member of the Seanad Public Consultation Committee during the term of the last Seanad (2011-15), contributed actively to the hearings that we held, and am a strong supporter of this initiative, which we introduced for the first time in 2011. Among our very successful hearings were hearings on the rights of older people; and on the linkage between lifestyle factors and cancer. The work of the Seanad PCC on issues such as these has reflected very well on the unique contribution that the Seanad can make to public debate, as we work best in a collaborative and non-adversarial environment.'
A: Eoin Meehan
'I believe the Seanad Public Consultation Committee mechanism is an excellent vehicle for allowing evidence and fact-based analysis of a major public social issue. It’s ability to make non-partisan recommendations is a valuable function of our Upper House, and enhances the House’s ability to hold governments to account.
Convening a Seanad Public Consultation Committee will allow family carers and those with interest in the area to state their concerns and issues directly to the legislature.
I support the convening of a Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Family Carers. I would especially support follow-up sessions to review and publish the progress on recommendations made by the Committee.'
A: David Norris
'The situation of carers is a reproach to government. The various cutbacks that have affected them, the lack of recognition they have been accorded for their valiant service and the money that they save the exchequer shames us all. I am a practical politician and believe in taking action that will have positive results. My memory of the public consultation on the rights of the older person is that they were poorly attended and little reported. If one takes this Seanad consultation and the resulting Seanad report one must ask what impact this has had? I regret to say that I don't see any. However the meetings of the Health Committee on Abortion were very well attended, thought provoking and well covered by the media. Perhaps a more affective approach would be to have the matter raised for examination by the Health Committee. However if a consultation process was proposed by the government I would of course not be opposed to it. I sympathise very much with the questioner's general point of view. I have spoken out vigorously on behalf of carers in Seanad Eireann over the years and will continue to do so if re-elected.'
A: Oisín Coghlan
'I wholeheartedly support the setting up of a Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Family Carers. I agree that collaborative, deliberative examination of critical social issues is precisely the kind of thing the Seanad can do very well. As someone who knows a fair bit about "family care" - we cared for my elderly dad at home for 3 years and my parents cared for my disabled brother for 18 years - I also really support this great initiative from Family Carers Ireland to make sure Carers Count in the 2016 Census. The have worked with the CSO to develop Question 22 in the Census on unpaid care by family and friends of people with disabilities or health problems.
The more the state understands how much care families do, the stronger our case will be for proper support for carers.'
A: Sean Melly
'The Committee system in the Oireachtas is one of the few areas where the business of fact-based decision-making is actually done and I would like to see more of it. Experts and specialists in specific areas are invited to these committees and their views heard in a cross-party, non-confrontational environment. These committees are important for informing debate and legislation.
The Seanad Public Consultation Committees do not have the same powers but the Oireachtas Committees allow Senators to sit on them. So instead of having a Seanad Public Consultation Committee on Family Carers, I think it would be more effective to establish an Oireachtas Select Sub-Committee on Family Carers, which could fall under the Committee of Education and Social Protection. I think this would be a good place for carers and experts to have their views heard and to give them the chance to contribute to legislative change.'
A: Sabina Brennan
'I would welcome the opportunity to call for and participate in a Public Consultation Committee on Family Carers.
I will call on the government to ring-fence funding for a renewed Carer’s Strategy and a clear updated action plan for 2016-2020. I will table a motion to amend the constitution to incorporate a broader definition of the caring role to include men and dependents other than children.
We need mechanisms to access carer needs and provide the supports necessary to optimise the health of both carer and care recipient.
Caring is undervalued. We need policies and practices that recognise, support and value the role of carers.
Carers need financial support irrespective of means, and without complex or inequitable application processes. Family carers need to be trained and paid. Policies need to acknowledge the changing needs and demands of care across the lifespan and facilitate part-time work, flexible working conditions or career breaks.
Through the introduction of disability specific training, certification, and regulation and standards both formal and informal care can be appropriately elevated to a specialist occupation.
Informal care needs to be supplemented with a combination of respite, formal care and support services in response to individual and changing needs.'
A: Averil Power
'Improving services for people with disabilities and their carers must be a priority for the incoming Government.
I have repeatedly spoken about this issue in the Seanad and national media over the past five years. I voted against the cut in the Respite Care Grant and highlighted delays in the processing of Carers Allowance and Carers Benefit payments. I have also assisted many carers in getting their entitlements.
If re-elected, I will be happy to push for a public consultation on the needs of carers. More importantly, I will also push for its recommendations to be implemented. The Seanad PCC on Older People produced an excellent report but many of its key recommendations have not been implemented.'