Referendum on Seanad likely in second half of next year, says Kenny
THE REFERENDUM to abolish the Seanad is likely to be held in the second half of next year, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.
“We have not made a decision on this, but I would envisage that it would be held in the latter half of 2013,” he added.
Mr Kenny declined to say if there would be a referendum on gay marriage in the Government’s lifetime.
Referring to the Seanad referendum, the Taoiseach said that Ireland would hold the EU presidency from January to June next year. It would not be practical to have the referendum during that time, given that Ministers would be “tied up in a whole raft of meetings and all of that schedule to divert the attention of the Oireachtas for three or four weeks on an issue of any referendum”.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said it was a matter of puzzlement why issues like the length of the presidential term and the voting age were matters for the constitutional convention while the future of the Seanad was not.
“Clearly, the Seanad needs reform,” added Mr Adams.
Joe Higgins (Socialist Party) said Mr Kenny was a recent convert to the Seanad’s abolition. “Some of us have expressed this view for decades,” he added.
Mr Kenny said the Government would publish documentation on the abolition when all of it was available.
There was quite a number of references to the Seanad in the Constitution, he said.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore had said gay marriage was the defining civil rights issue of a generation.
“Do you expect there to be a referendum, in the lifetime of this Government, in relation to marriage equality?” he asked.
Mr Kenny replied that the convention would deliberate on gay and lesbian marriage and make a recommendation.
“The Government will respond to that recommendation within four months,” he added.
Mr Kenny said that while the referendum was “certainly feasible within the lifetime of this Government . . . I am not going to confirm it now”.
Mr Martin pressed the Taoiseach on this point.
Mr Kenny replied: “Well, as I said, Deputy Martin, the convention will consider this, make a recommendation and the Government will respond to that. As I say, everything is feasible in politics and so is this.”
Richard Boyd Barrett (People Before Profit) said he could not understand the inclusion of 33 politicians in the convention.
“Why do we need them?” he asked. “Why don’t we have one or two from each party, North and South?”
Mr Kenny said the delay in setting up the convention related to appointing a suitable chairman.