Rabbitte: Government has ‘obligation’ to reform Seanad

Minister says time needed to assess if another referendum will be required

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said the Government has an obligation to reform the Seanad following yesterday’s referendum. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said the Government has an obligation to reform the Seanad following yesterday’s referendum. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Sun, Oct 6, 2013, 14:52

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte has said the Government has “an obligation” to reform the Seanad following the result of yesterday’s referendum.

Mr Rabbitte said time would be needed to assess if the Upper House could be reformed without the need for another referendum .

“The people want us to maintain the institution and therefore we have an obligation to reform it but it will take some discussion and debate about how that can be done within the constraints of the Constitution and without another referendum,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

The Coalition parties both campaigned for the abolition of the Seanad but Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore both open to the idea of reform now that the public had spoken in the referendum. Both party leaders acknowledged another referendum may be needed if reform is pursued.

Mr Rabbitte said he found himself scratching his head when it came to defining what Seanad reform means and that Ireland did not have a good record on the matter in the last 70 years.

He said he noted the proposals set out in a Bill by senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone but that “we don’t need to replicate the Dáil.”

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin today said the Government “should move fairly speedily” on altering the Seanad to make it more “effective”.

“Ultimately we may need to ask the people by way of another referendum for specific changes to bring about radical reform than the current constitution provides for,” he said on RTÉ’s This Week programme.

Mr Rabbitte also said it was his view that the Taoiseach “probably should have” taken part in a televised debate ahead of the referendum.

Mr Kenny has been criticised for refusing an invitation to take part in a Prime Time debate with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Tuesday night.

The referendum on the abolition of the Seanad was defeated by some 42,500 votes, with 51.8 per cent of voters saying No.