Bruton says Fianna Fáil’s support for Seanad lacks credibility

Fine Gael will not sanction TDs who vote against abolition

Richard Bruton: “We will expect leadership from our TDs and Senators.” 

Photograph: Eric Luke

Richard Bruton: “We will expect leadership from our TDs and Senators.” Photograph: Eric Luke

Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 01:00




Fine Gael has attacked Fianna Fáil’s stance on the Seanad referendum, claiming the party’s support for the Upper House lacks credibility.

At the same time, Fine Gael director of elections Richard Bruton said there would be no official sanctions against party figures who defy the leadership by saying they will vote against abolition.

In a sign that the Coalition will play heavily in the referendum campaign on Fianna Fáil’s record in office, Mr Bruton said it was not sustainable for the Government to be accused of a power grab.

“I don’t think it’s anything got to do with a genuine concern about accountability in parliamentary democracy,” Mr Bruton said of the Fianna Fáil position.

At odds
Making the point that the Seanad had not deployed its power to delay legislation since 1964, he told The Irish Times in an interview that Fianna Fáil support for the Upper House was at odds with its position in the 2011 election.

“We’re moving towards greater budget scrutiny and a lot of the flaws that were exposed in their time are the things we are fixing, so it is sort of strange in my view that they would bleat foul in the face of the abolition of the Senate, ” Mr Bruton said.

“I think the fact that the support against are essentially the parties who were in government when all our problems were born is an interesting statement in itself. Everything that’s been done since has been to try and restore some of the flaws in the way discussion was put together.”

Penalties
While a majority of Fine Gael Senators have declared they will vote to retain the Upper House on October 4th, Mr Bruton said he was not aware of any penal code that the party might apply in this situation.

“There never has been a whip that I’ve known of, of people being imposed penalties,” he said. “But obviously also people are judged by their capacity to deliver in any political organisation, projects that are valued by the leadership will be looked at as important tests of the capacities of people.

“We will expect leadership from our TDs and Senators in this campaign, just as in any other.”

Citing Government moves to deepen the scrutiny of legislation by the Dáil and Dáil committees, Mr Bruton also noted moves to expand the Freedom of Information Act and the creation of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council. When it was put to him that a number of Cabinet Ministers had publicly spurned the council’s call for a €3.1 billion retrenchment in Budget 2014, Mr Burton said no one suggested the council become the Government.

“The fiscal council is out there to put out independent advice, each year every year, to look at the case,” he said.

“We have walked the walk and no one can question that, but of course the fiscal council is an important point of view and to have that there is to stop the sort of craziness that went on in the noughties when . . . with gay abandon big spending commitments were built up on the back of property revenues that were simply unsustainable.”

Mr Bruton offered no opinion as to whether the Government should maintain the €3.1 billion target, as the EU-IMF demands, or dilute it, as suggested by senior figures in Labour.