Kenny demands party line in referendum campaign
Taoiseach says scrapping Seanad central to party’s policy
We want the referendum to be carried, and to be carried strongly, says Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Photograph: Eric Luke
Taoiseach Enda Kenny mounted a strident attack on Fine Gael rebels who did not support the abortion legislation as he said everyone in the party’s “electoral teams” should take part in the referendum campaign to scrap the Seanad.
With many Senators opposed to the abolition of the Seanad and some TDs lacking enthusiasm, Mr Kenny pointed out that Fine Gael campaigned in the 2011 election to scrap the Upper House and pledged in the programme for government to put the question to the people.
“We want the referendum to be carried, and to be carried strongly. And we’ll make that point very cogently in different places around the country,” Mr Kenny told reporters at the end of the Fine Gael think-in in Killenard, Co Laois.
“All our electoral teams will be asked to contribute to this work.”
Although Fine Gael director of elections Richard Bruton insisted the party was running a very strong campaign in the referendum, he conceded the question was challenging for certain politicians.
“Of course change in any institution is difficult, and change in politics is difficult for some politicians,” Mr Bruton said.
“But we have very clearly said from well before the last general election that change in politics has to be part of the difficult adjustment that this country is going through.”
In a Morning Ireland interview on RTÉ yesterday, Mr Kenny said he saw no “easy way” back into the Fine Gael parliamentary party for rebel TDs and Senators who defied the whip on the abortion legislation.
Having previously ruled out any return for the rebels, he was later asked whether there was any way back for them.
“The point is that everybody here is an adult who made this decision,” he said.
“I invested quite a lot of time, I have to say, in the members who are no longer members of the parliamentary party, in working with them, in canvassing with them, in approving them, and in being part of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.
“They understood quite clearly that in the context of the Bill before the House where the law wasn’t even being changed that their decision would result in self-expulsion.”
Mr Kenny was also asked whether his remarks represented any softening of his position.
“Nobody was expelled from the parliamentary party; it’s self-expulsion. If you vote against you understand the consequences.
“If everybody wants to go off and be a free spirit then you have instability. I can’t and won’t allow that to happen.”
At the same press conference Minister for Finance Michael Noonan hinted at a possible extension of Nama’s work beyond the 2020 deadline at which its mandate is due to expire.
“Nama will come to an end. There’s no change in the objective that it would end in 2020,” Mr Noonan said. “But we’re looking at options there, but it’s a long way down the line.”