Seanad campaign steps up as FG begins online strategy

Gerry Adams describes Fianna Fáil position on referendum as ‘opportunistic U-turn’

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams on Moore Street canvassing for a  Yes vote in the Seanad referendum. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams on Moore Street canvassing for a Yes vote in the Seanad referendum. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fri, Sep 13, 2013, 17:33

The campaign ahead of next month’s referendum on abolishing the Seanad stepped up a gear today with the launch of Fine Gael’s online strategy and an attack by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams on Fianna Fáil’s position on the vote.

Launching Fine Gael’s online campaign for a Yes vote in Dublin, the party’s director of elections Richard Bruton said the party wanted to use as many platforms as possible in the run-up to the vote on October 4th.

Flanked by the party’s deputy director of elections Regina Doherty and social media co-ordinator, Eoghan Murphy, Mr Bruton claimed the argument for abolition of the Seanad is “overwhelmingly” with the Yes side.

Mr Bruton said the party’s online campaign is aimed at making it “as easy as possible” to share information about the referendum.

Fine Gael has published a microsite as an extension of its main finegael.ie website. A previous campaign saw the party’s finegael2011.ie website targeted by hackers.

Arguments in favour of abolishing the Seanad are outlined on the finegael.ie/seanad microsite including the claim that abolition would result in a saving of € 20million per annum - an amount the website states as an “example” could pay for 350 primary teachers.

The website also states that only 1 per cent of the population elects the Seanad and that Ireland is the “only country in Europe of our size with two chambers of parliament”.

Ahead of a canvas in Dublin city centre, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams accused Fianna Fáil of opportunism in their opposition to the abolition of the Seanad.

Mr Adams accused Fianna Fáil of performing an “opportunistic U-turn” on Seanad abolition and said if Mícheal Martin is “sincere” in his wish for Northern representation in the Oireachtas then he should support Sinn Féin’s call for speaking rights in the Dáil for Northern MPs.

“Fianna Fáil went into the last general election with a commitment to abolish the Seanad yet Micheál Martin now opposes its abolition,” Mr Adams said.

“This referendum is not about reform. It simply isn’t on the table. The Seanad is elitist and undemocratic. It must be abolished.”

Calling on voters to “Make your first Seanad vote your last,” the Socialist Party launched its campaign for a Yes vote.

While calling for a Yes vote, the party’s director of elections and MEP Paul Murphy said the referendum is “a cynical stunt” by the Government.

Mr Murphy accused the Coalition of “trying to pose as being in favour of radical political reform, while it prepares a budget that will further destroy our public services and many people’s lives.”

“However, people now have an opportunity on October 4th to abolish the elitist and undemocratic Seanad. We say that people should seize that opportunity and vote Yes despite the government’s deep cynicism.”