Bruton says Seanad is ‘watchdog that barks only once every 50 years’

Minister for Enterprise dismisses contention that Upper House has ‘checks and balance’ role in relation to legislation

Richard Bruton, director of Fine Gael’s campaign seeking a Yes vote in next month’s referendum on the abolition of the Seanad, during a press conference at Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Frank Miller

Richard Bruton, director of Fine Gael’s campaign seeking a Yes vote in next month’s referendum on the abolition of the Seanad, during a press conference at Leinster House yesterday. Photograph: Frank Miller

Thu, Sep 5, 2013, 01:00


Seanad Éireann has been branded a “watchdog that barks only once every 50 years” by the director of Fine Gael’s campaign seeking a Yes vote in next month’s referendum.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton dismissed the contention that the Upper House has a “checks and balance” role in relation to legislation.

“The Seanad has blocked only one piece of legislation since 1964,” he said.

He was speaking at a Fine Gael event announcing a series of public “town hall” meetings around the country between now and polling day on October 4th. The first meeting will take place in his own constituency of Dublin Bay North this evening.

Mr Bruton was joined on the plinth of Leinster House by deputy campaign director Regina Doherty and by TDs Áine Collins, Liam Twomey and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy.


Absence of Senators
Asked about the absence of the party’s own Senators from the campaign, Mr Bruton acknowledged there was opposition within the party to the proposition.

He said every politician who stood for Fine Gael in the last election stood on a five-point programme. “And one of those was political reform, and at the heart of that was abolition of the Seanad.” “Everyone who has a Fine Gael nomination stood on that platform and we would expect them to honour that platform.”


Reforming politics
“We are saying we need to reform politics. Politics failed us in the crisis,” he said.

When it was put to him that the Government’s programme of Dáil reform had not delivered meaningful change, he said the Government’s proposals would involve major reform, including the way in which legislation would be shaped in future.

Ms Doherty said the Fine Gael campaign would also concentrate on “delivering the facts”. She said the Seanad was an undemocratic chamber that was ineffectual, had little power and was elected by only 1 per cent of the population. She said its scrutiny role would be replaced by beefed-up committees.

Mr Bruton accepted that the referendum would not be easily won. “Nobody ever takes citizens for granted.”