Farming community faces Seanad blitz at ploughing championships

Political leaders will descend on national event with polished leaflets and arguments

Fine Gael’s director of elections for abolition, Richard Bruton, said “claims that abolishing the Seanad amounts to a power grab just don’t stand up. The Seanad has no power to grab.” Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Fine Gael’s director of elections for abolition, Richard Bruton, said “claims that abolishing the Seanad amounts to a power grab just don’t stand up. The Seanad has no power to grab.” Photograph: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Mon, Sep 23, 2013, 01:07


The referendum campaign for abolition of the Seanad will be a major feature of party leaders’ visits to the National Ploughing Championships this week in Laois.

With just over a week remaining to the October 4th plebiscite, Taoiseach Enda Kenny will use his visit on Thursday to push undecided or uninterested voters to back his proposal for a unicameral parliamentary system.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will canvass vigorously against abolition while Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is also expected to attend, pushing for abolition. Independent TDs and Senators opposing abolition are also expected to use the opportunity to canvass a geographically widespread section of the electorate.

Everyone attending the ploughing championships can expect to be treated to a variety of leaflets and brochures both for and against the proposal, reflecting political parties’ interests rather than voter engagement in the to-date low-key campaign.

Fine Gael’s Yes campaign for abolition had by last week despatched 600,000 leaflets to voters and expects this figure to reach one million by polling day, while it has reached half a million voters through its online campaign. Its latest publicity move is a mobile billboard with the slogan “What kind of watchdog only barks every 50 years?”.

It depicts a Doberman lying in front of a “Seanad” kennel, with the message that the last time the Seanad delayed a Bill was in 1964 – pawnbroker legislation. The billboard was driven around Dublin yesterday to catch the attention of GAA fans attending the All-Ireland football final.

Fine Gael’s director of elections for abolition, Richard Bruton, said “claims that abolishing the Seanad amounts to a power grab just don’t stand up. The Seanad has no power to grab.”

He said the Seanad had never acted as a check on the Government because there had been a government majority in almost every Seanad over the last 75 years.

The party has been buoyed by continuing opinion poll support, the latest from the Sunday Times’ Behaviour & Attitudes opinion poll, a phone survey of 934 voters. It showed support for abolition is 60 per cent with 40 per cent against, when the “don’t knows” were excluded.

There was a hiccup for the Yes campaign when tennis legend Bjorn Borg objected to a photo of him being used in a Fine Gael Facebook advert without his permission. One of three ads featured him celebrating a tennis win with the headline: “He seems happy – the Swedes got rid of their senate in 1970.”

The party took down the ad and apologised.