Senator Rónán Mullen at the Council of Europe April 2010
I've never used my position as a priest to influence people on how they should vote. In private conversation with friends, yes, I've often shared my views on political positions and on politicians. I'm making a kind of exception here. And this is a personal blog where I represent nobody but myself, though I hope that no matter what I write about it brings people closer to our Lord Jesus Christ and that I am faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
The Irish Senate, Seanad Éireann [SHANad AIRun], unlike the senates of the Philippines of or the USA, has little power and only six of the 60 senators are elected by a large number of people. Eleven are nominated by the Taoiseach [TEEshock] (Prime Minister), 43 by supposedly vocational panels, eg, Agricultural, Labour, which consist of elected members of county and city councils, most of whom belong to political parties.
However, six graduates of our two older universities, three from Dublin University (Trinity College) and three from the National University of Ireland (NUI), are elected by their fellow graduates. The university senators are usually independents, though not always so, unlike those elected by the panels who are often people who have lost their seats in the elections for the Dáil [DHAWil] (parliament) or promising young politicians being groomed by their parties for the next Dáil election.
Rónán Mullen, whom I met before he was elected in 2007 and with whom I had been in email correspondence before that, is a truly independent voice, steeped in the social teaching of the Catholic Church and not afraid to speak out, despite the hostility he sometimes meets. As a senator he has been active in highlighting the plight of trafficked women, the needs of those who are dying, the dignity of the life of every human being from the moment of conception and so on. He has highlighted these issues also at European level.
Some, including the new Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, want the Seanad abolished while others want it reformed so that it can play a bigger role in Irish life instead of being a powerless talking-shop, as many see it to be.
There are, I think, 27 candidates running for the three NUI seats. The system of voting is the single transferable vote where you put No 1 after the name of your top candidate, No 2 after your second, and so on as far down as you wish to go. There's a complicated system of transfers with the purpose of ensuring a balanced reflection of the will of the total electorate.
As I'm not a graduate of the NUI, I can't vote for Rónán Mullen. But I truly believe that at a time of great social change in Ireland, at a time when the bishops have lost most of their moral influence, the voice of authentic Christian values needs to be heard from articulate lay people assuming their proper role in public life, as Vatican II challenged them to do. Rónán Mullen doesn't represent the Catholic Church in the Seanad. He represents the graduates of the NUI. But he is absolutely clear about what he stands for and his principles aren't determined by the opinions of those who vote for him.
You can find out about Rónán's policies and record on his website.
If you have friends who are graduates of the NUI encourage them to give Rónán their No 1 preference and to make sure that their ballot papers will be in by 27 April. Meanwhile we can all pray that he will be re-elected and continue to be a truly independent voice in the Irish legislature.
Here's Rónán's campaign video: