Bruton says 1% of population elects Seanad
Minister gets positive response in Dublin city centre canvass
Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton canvassing on Grafton Street, Dublin, yesterday. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times
People will be persuaded to vote for the Seanad’s abolition as they learn more about the Upper House, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton has said.
Mr Bruton, Fine Gael’s director of elections for next month’s referendum, handed out copies of an information booklet to members of the public in Dublin city centre yesterday. He said it provided “clear fact-based information to voters about the Seanad and the case for its abolition’’.
He asked how many people knew that the Seanad was elected by only 1 per cent of the population.
“How many people know that 90 per cent of Senators are elected exclusively by politicians and that many politicians have six or seven votes in the Seanad, while the vast majority of the population have none?’’ he asked.
“How many people know that the Seanad can only delay legislation, not overturn it, and the last time it used this power was in 1964?’’
On Grafton Street, people graciously accepted a copy of the booklet, with many saying they would be voting Yes. A homeless man approached the Minister for “a bit of change’’. “I’ll catch you later,’’ said Mr Bruton. “When is later?’’ replied the homeless man as he drifted into the crowd.
One man said he would be voting Yes and asked if he would receive a brown envelope in return. A bewildered couple identified themselves as English tourists. “We need your money,’’ said Dublin city councillor Gerry Breen.
There was no time for a chat with Dublin South TD Peter Mathews, who lost the Fine Gael whip after voting against the abortion legislation, and is now out of favour with the party hierarchy, as he passed by on his way to Leinster House.
“I wandered lonely as a cloud,’’ said Mr Mathews, striking a poetic note as he unexpectedly encountered some of his former parliamentary colleagues.
At the corner of Duke Street, flower-seller Helen Byrne, from Cork Street, listened patiently as Mr Bruton explained the case for abolition and presented her with a booklet. “I will have a read of it later,’’ she said.
Mr Bruton’s group was then joined by Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar. The mood remained upbeat and relaxed, with no sign of the public anger against politicians which sometimes surfaces when Ministers and TDs go on a canvass. But then Mr Bruton’s pitch to the public yesterday was about making politicians redundant and saving money.