Seanad abolition is no power grab, says Gilmore

Tánaiste signals party dissidents will not face sanction

Director of elections and Minister of State Alex White, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton at a Labour Party press conference to call for a Yes vote in the  referendum. Photograph: Alan Betson

Director of elections and Minister of State Alex White, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton at a Labour Party press conference to call for a Yes vote in the referendum. Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, Sep 12, 2013, 01:00


Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has dismissed the suggestion that the Government is engaged in a power grab in the referendum to scrap the Seanad.

Launching Labour’s campaign for the October 4th poll, he said a small country such as Ireland had no need for two parliamentary chambers and a looming reform of Dáil procedures will be sufficient to uphold democracy.

Many Labour Senators and TDs, including Emmet Stagg and Joanna Tuffy, are opposed to Seanad abolition. Mr Gilmore indicated such public representatives would not face sanction – even though the party would be campaigning strongly for a Yes vote.

The party’s campaign slogan is “One people, one parliament, one vote”. Labour says the Seanad electoral system is elitist and undemocratic and argues that the Upper House is surplus to the requirements of the modern Irish State.

“This is not a power grab,” Mr Gilmore told reporters in Dublin. “This is about asking the people of the country first of all to make a decision, a very straightforward question of whether we have one parliamentary chamber or two.”

Asked whether party figures who defy the party line would face “consequences”, he indicated they would not. All Labour TDs and Senators had voted for the referendum Bill as they were obliged to do under party rules, he noted.

“I think it’s only fair to say that in all political parties there are individual public representatives who take a view different to the official view of the party,” he said.

“This is something we’ve had before. I recall during the course of a particular European referendum some public representatives took a position different to the official party position and there were no consequences in those cases.”

The unspoken Labour stance is that only those who make a “song and dance” of defiance of official stance might be tackled but there is no intention to “go to war” on the matter.

While this position reflects the ambivalence of many outside the Labour leadership, director of elections Alex White said the party was determined to run a forceful campaign.

“There won’t be a half-hearted campaign. There’ll be a very strong campaign. As the Tánaiste has said, we’ll lay out the case as we see for the abolition of the Senate which frankly largely is . . . that there is no case to retain the Senate.”


Court of appeal
Labour’s call for a Yes vote in the separate referendum to establish a new court of appeal is grounded in concern about the four-year waiting time for cases to the Supreme Court.

“Justice delayed is justice denied and so the new Civil Court of Appeal will improve the efficiency and transparency of our court system,” Labour’s referendum literature says.