A file image of UL law lecturer Laura Cahillane giving a talk
Dr Laura Cahillane was an expert witness in the case taken by UL graduate Tomás Heneghan Picture: True Media
Friday, 31 March 2023

A Senior Lecturer in Law at University of Limerick has hailed the Supreme Court decision granting the right of UL graduates to vote in Seanad elections as a ‘victory for democracy’.

Dr Laura Cahillane was an expert witness in the case taken by UL graduate Tomás Heneghan who claimed he should be entitled to a vote in Seanad Éireann elections.

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.

Mr Heneghan claimed he should enjoy the same right to vote in the elections as a UL graduate and has won his case on appeal at the Supreme Court this Friday.

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.”