Taoiseach introduces Bill to senators to abolish the Seanad
FF calls on Kenny to reflect on referendum
Fergal Quinn (Ind) said the Seanad should be reformed so that it could ensure citizens were protected from legislation which might have a negative effect on their lives.
The political establishment had failed for 75 years to introduce a single reform of the Seanad, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told Senators yesterday.
He said that after 75 years of failure, and 10 separate reports on reform, all of which had been ignored, the Government had decided to ask the Irish people the simple yet profound question if Ireland needed a Second House.
“It is the people who will decide, not this Government or Oireachtas.’’
The Taoiseach was introducing the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill paving the way for his promised referendum to abolish the Seanad.
Its proposed abolition, he said, was part of the Government’s comprehensive programme of political reform, which would establish a new politics that was more accountable, democratic and responsive. It would be the biggest package of political reforms since the passing of the Constitution in 1937.
Mr Kenny said no government would ever propose changing the Constitution lightly. “It is our fundamental law and the main blueprint for our system of government and it has served this country well. However, the Constitution is not, and must not ever be, fixed in stone.’’
He said in tandem with the abolition of the Seanad further change was required to strengthen the Dáil’s role. Legislation would first be submitted to the relevant Dáil committee in the heads of Bill format, a new schedule would increase the amount of time available for legislative scrutiny and four-day sittings would become the norm.
Darragh O’Brien (FF) called on Mr Kenny to reflect on the reforms he and his Government had introduced since their election.
He outlined the legislative work undertaken by the Seanad, adding that he was a concerned citizen.
“I welcome the debate and I will welcome a referendum if it is an honest referendum and if the Taoiseach does not continue to put out figures such as savings of €20 million to €50 million and if he does not erroneously try to lay the blame for problems that happened in the past on the Seanad alone.’’
Mr O’Brien said that amending the Constitution was not something to be taken lightly.
“I fear and believe that he is taking it lightly, and he is vandalising the Constitution with this proposal.’’
Maurice Cummins (FG) said the Bill was difficult for everybody, saying no government had the courage to implement recommended reforms.
“The Seanad is not to blame for not implementing the recommendations contained in these reports. It is the responsibility of the relevant governments, which failed miserably to act on all the reports.’’
He said the Seanad had initiated many reforms despite the archaic rules and standing orders under which it worked.
Ivana Bacik (Labour) said as leader of her party’s group she would vote for the Bill as it was in the programme for government. “However, I will not be voting in favour of abolishing the Seanad, and I will urge others to do the same, as we should be able to reform rather than abolish the Seanad.’’
Feargal Quinn (Ind) said the Seanad should be reformed so that it could ensure citizens were protected from legislation which might have a negative effect on their lives.
Debate on the Bill resumes today.