Seanad campaign demeaning, says FG Minister
Frances Fitzgerald says there was no need to ‘rubbish’ upper house
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald: “I was quite happy to make the case for reform. You don’t have to demean the people or the institution.” Photograph: Frank Miller
A senior Fine Gael Minister has said the failed campaign to abolish the Seanad was demeaning to Senators and one of the institutions of State.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said there was “absolutely no need, ever” to “rubbish” the Seanad or the people in it, both past and present.
Abolishing the Seanad was a personal initiative of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, although many in his party and in Labour were not as enthusiastic.
Fine Gael led the campaign but some of its methods were criticised, such as claiming abolition would save €20 million, using posters promising “fewer politicians” and describing the Seanad as a watchdog which hadn’t barked in 50 years.
Ms Fitzgerald’s comments will be seen as a criticism of the Fine Gael campaign and she is the most senior party figure to publicly voice such concerns.
During the referendum campaign, Fine Gael Ministers, including Ms Fitzgerald, backed Mr Kenny’s position that there would no reform of the Seanad if it was retained. But she now says her position was that there should be reform.
“There was absolutely no need, ever, to rubbish the Senate. I certainly felt reform was needed. I always felt the Dáil had to be reformed if we were going to have an effective Senate referendum campaign.”
The Government has since moved to broaden the franchise of the university panels, but the Taoiseach has ruled out allowing all citizens to vote in elections to the Seanad.
He also ruled out holding another referendum to change the way the chamber does its business.
‘Case for reform’
Ms Fitzgerald conceded there was a “demeaning” of the Seanad during the campaign.
“There was. I did feel that. And my own personal view is that you don’t need to demean to create the case for reform.
“I was quite happy to make the case for reform. You don’t have to demean the people or the institution because it was one of the institutions of the State.”