Group launches campaign in favour of Seanad abolition

One House chaired by chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission

Chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Chief executive of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 15:51

A new group which will campaign to scrap the Seanad has dismissed as “trickery” the notion that the Upper House will be reformed if the referendum is defeated.

One House, chaired by Labour Relations Commission chief Kieran Mulvey, describes itself as an independent civil society group and says it is not aligned with any political party.

Other members include barrister Richard Humphreys, who is a Labour councillor, retired politicians Barry Desmond, Alan Dukes, Liz McManus, DCU academic Dr Eoin O’Malley, solicitor Mary Trayers, lecturer Kevin Rafter and trade unionist Blair Horan.

Mr Mulvey described the Seanad as a useless, irrelevant, toothless assembly elected by a small elite of politicians and university graduates.

As Mr Mulvey spoke former junior minister Lucinda Creighton issued a message on Twitter saying he should be asked whether it was a coincidence that he wanted to “gag elected TDs” and abolish the Senate. “Leave democracy to him and his unions?”

Mr Mulvey rejected this, saying Ms Creighton seemed to have particular obsession with himself and his role. “I don’t know why that is. I have never met the lady in my life.”

He said there was no suggestion that his involvement would compromise his duties at the Labour Relations Commission, adding that his professional role and his role as a citizen were distinctly different.

“I have been in public life for nearly 40 years… I feel strongly as a citizen regarding this matter. I’m very conscious of my role as the chief executive and independence will not suffer nor my integrity by my involvement in this group in regard to the abolition of the Senate.”

At a press conference this afternoon in Dublin, Mr Mulvey pointed out that most Irish citizens have no right to vote in the Senate election. “It wields no power and has never held government to account.”

Mr Mulvey and other One House members rubbished a draft Bill to reform from Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, saying it was not possible in this way to change the Constitution.

“It’s not a reform Bill. It’s just changing the chess board. The Constitution in this country is very clear. No reform Bill in the Senate can change the Constitution,” Mr Mulvey said.

“Some people seem to think that the question on the ballot paper is ‘would you like to reform the Seanad?’ It is not what the people will vote on. So let there be no trickery.

“There is one question facing the people on this ballot paper. Yes or no. There is no other question. So all of this statement around reforming the Senate, it’s not to be on the ballot paper.”

Mr Humphreys, who said his involvement in the campaign was distinct from his role in the Labour party, described the Quinn-Zappone proposal as a “tatty little reform Bill” which preserved the apartheid of the Seanad.

“No reform Bill can change the inherent elitism of the Seanad - because that is written into the Constitution itself,” he said.

“If the reform Bill provided for separate drinking fountains and lunch counters for university graduates it might be easier to see its true colours, and somehow answer that the facilities were separate but equal would not get very far.”

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