McDowell says abolition of Seanad is a cheap stunt

Former tánaiste and PD leader claims a single-chamber Oireachtas would concentrate power in hands of Government

Former tánaiste Michael McDowell: says present system for electing the Seanad is ludicrous

Former tánaiste Michael McDowell: says present system for electing the Seanad is ludicrous


A former tánaiste has made a scathing attack on a Coalition proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann, deriding it as a “cheap stunt by which all political power will be concentrated in the hands of Government”.

In a speech last night, Michael McDowell contended that the plans were dressed up as a political reform but portrayed that as a threadbare pretence.

“[It] is in reality a proposal that Dáil Éireann, a deeply dysfunctional chamber totally dominated by members of the Executive and savagely ruled by the party whip system, should henceforth be the only body concerned with legislation.”

That would mean that no other voices should be heard by right in our parliamentary process apart from TDs. He said they were elected in multi-seat constituencies in a “system based on crude political Darwinism which requires TDs to survive by focusing their attentions on local constituency issues”.

Mr McDowell, a former tánaiste, minister for justice and leader of the defunct Progressive Democrats, was addressing the NUI Maynooth law society.

He also averted to its powers to amend legislation and ask the President to put important legislation directly to the people for decision in referendum.

The agreement of the upper house would also would be required for Ireland to abandon its EU veto on matters such as tax harmonisation.

Mr McDowell said he agreed that the present system for electing the Seanad was ludicrous. It would not be hard to have senators elected directly; to have a 50-50 gender equality of membership; to have members truly representative of a range of Irish life, to lower the annual salary to €20,000 and assign it important functions.

Government sources have indicated the Seanad referendum will take place in the autumn, perhaps ahead of the budget, which is being brought forward to October.