Kenny says abolishing Seanad would save €20m annually
Opposition critical of proposed referendum
Enda Kenny: “There is something fundamentally wrong in politicians asking others to change and make real sacrifices and not doing the same ourselves.’’Photograph: Alan Betson
Micheál Martin: “Never before has a government produced an amendment which involves so much change and so little reform.” Photograph: Eric Luke
Abolishing the Seanad would save an estimated €20 million annually in running the Oireachtas, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil.
“I make no apology for seeking to cut the cost of politics in Ireland,’’ he said. “There is something fundamentally wrong, in my view, in politicians asking others to change and make real sacrifices and not doing the same ourselves.’’
Mr Kenny said it was time to create a new political system and restore people’s faith and hope in Irish politics. For 75 years, political insiders had discussed and debated Seanad reform, with 10 reports published and not one implemented.
“Many of those who ignored Seanad and Dáil reform, when in power, have argued vigorously against the holding of a referendum,’’ he added,“yet it is the Constitution that declares that the people are sovereign.’’
Mr Kenny asked what could be more appropriate and more democratic than asking the people to decide on the future of the Seanad, following 75 years of inaction by the political establishment.
The Taoiseach was introducing the 32nd amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill to hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad.
He said it was part of the Government’s comprehensive programme of political reform to establish news politics.
The Government, he added, was introducing the biggest package of political reform since the passing of the Constitution in 1937. But the truth was that there were too many politicians in Ireland.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Government had consulted nobody on the Bill. “This is a proposal to hack out a significant part of our Constitution purely because the Government wants to claim to be reforming politics.
“Never before has a government produced an amendment which involves so much change and so little reform.’’
Mr Martin said the manner in which it was prepared was a powerful demonstration of the strongest reason why people should fear its impact.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said citizens should be given the option for root-and- branch reform. If the Government wanted to cut costs, it should cut Oireachtas salaries.
“Taoiseach, you are proposing to reduce two dysfunctional chambers to one dysfunctional chamber without giving the people the option of voting for an alternative,’’ Mr Adams added.