TDs should be given incentive to vote for end to Seanad, says Labour’s Robert Dowds

‘Strong package of parliamentary reform’ should be on the the agena

Robert Dowds: Cabinet accepted that TDs had to be more than voters for Government legislation

Robert Dowds: Cabinet accepted that TDs had to be more than voters for Government legislation


The Government needs to incentivise TDs to try to have the referendum to abolish the Seanad succeed, a Government backbencher has told the Dáil.

Labour TD Robert Dowds told the House: “The Cabinet’s ideal is that we would all be good boys and girls and come in and press the right buttons at the right time, but we must do more than that.”

He said: “There is a need to present a strong package of parliamentary reform as part of the debate. We may well find that, unless such reform is put in train, the people decide to retain the Seanad.”

More than voters
The Cabinet accepted that TDs had to be more than voters for Government legislation. “But if Ministers are being honest with themselves, that would be the ideal; it would be less hassle and they could get on with life more easily. Politics is not about an easy life, however, so we must avoid that situation.”

The Dublin Mid-West TD was speaking during the debate on legislation to allow for a referendum on Seanad abolition.

Mr Dowds was one of the few Labour backbenchers speaking in the Dáil yesterday who favoured abolition.

Labour TD for Dublin North East Seán Kenny said the decision regarding abolition “will be a decision for the people, not members of the Oireachtas or the Government. If the people decide that they want to retain it, as I do, it is their right to make that decision.”

Kerry North Labour TD Arthur Spring supported retention of the Upper House and pointed to successful senators including President Michael D Higgins and former president Mary Robinson, who, he said had made significant contributions to society.

“One wonders if they could have had a platform on which to launch a political career of such importance to our country without a Seanad. We also know a former taoiseach from Fine Gael, Garret FitzGerald, a good man for the people of Ireland, also started his career in the Seanad.”

Meath East TD Dominic Hannigan, a former senator, said however “the simple fact is that the Seanad simply replicates what is going on elsewhere and what is being done well elsewhere. It has become little more than an expensive creche for aspiring TDs and a nursing home for elder statespeople.

“We need to do what other small, mature democracies have done, namely, shut it down and move on.”

Independent TD Séamus Healy said the socialist movement favoured a single chamber legislature based on universal adult suffrage. The Bill represented a “hypocritical populist stunt” and “there is no commitment from the Government to real Oireachtas reform, particularly real Dáil reform”.