Kenny defends refusal to debate Seanad abolition on television with Martin

Taoiseach says he does not want to embarrass FF leader

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “glib, smart reply”.  Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “glib, smart reply”. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 01:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny defended his refusal to debate the abolition of the Seanad on television with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

“The answer to your question is that I don’t want to embarrass you,” he said.

Mr Martin said the Taoiseach’s “glib, smart reply” did not answer the substantive point he had put to him. He insisted that the Seanad was reformable.

Mr Kenny had been challenged by Mr Martin to explain why he would not take part in a debate on the national airwaves with the Opposition leaders, including Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, to argue the merits or demerits of what was a fundamental change to the Constitution.

Mr Kenny said for 50 years the political system had failed to deal with the Seanad. “That is why, having looked at the question of reform, I came to the conclusion that it is not reformable.’’

Constitutional function
He said the Seanad had no constitutional function in holding the executive of the day to account. “That constitutional responsibility rests in this chamber, here in Dáil Éireann. Therefore, the question being asked of the people is a straight question: do you want to retain Seanad Éireann or do you want to abolish it?’’

Mr Kenny said the Seanad was not necessary in a country the size of Ireland and in a situation where constitutional responsibility was very clearly vested in the Dáil. Mr Martin asked if, in the event of the Government’s proposal being defeated, Seanad reform would be facilitated.

“You are not giving the people that option. If the people vote you down – they may or may not – will you then facilitate it ?’’

Mr Kenny said Mr Martin was not going to walk him down that avenue; he was around long enough to have every faith and belief in the decision of the Irish people.

He said the question being asked in the referendum was very straightforward and was part of the process of changing the way politics should be run in Ireland. Mr Martin and his party had failed to deal with the issue over the years.

Mr Kenny said the Government was in the process of reducing the number of elected councillors, eliminating town councils, amalgamating some county councils and changing the electoral areas.

The Government was also reducing the number of TDs, and there was an opportunity to abolish the Seanad and transform the Dáil into what it should be: a chamber where the elected representatives of the people could hold the executive to account.