Seanad puts politicians first, Bruton tells debate
Minister for Jobs says abolition would put focus on chamber elected by all voters
Prime Time presenter, Miriam O’Callaghan with Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Enterprise, and Fine Gael’s director of elections, Richard Bruton (left), representing the ‘Yes’ camp and the leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, representing the ‘No’ camp, before they debated the abolition of the Seanad prior to this Friday’s referendum.
The abolition of the Seanad would improve the political system because it would shift the full focus of politics to a chamber elected to by all the citizens, Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton has said.
In a debate on RTÉ’s Prime Time programme last night, Mr Bruton said the Government was in the middle of introducing the most radical political reform ever seen in his time and that the Seanad was an “obsolete” institution.
He said the Seanad had failed to block or delay legislation for almost 50 years and was more focused on protecting politicians than citizens.
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Responding, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Fine Gael and Labour had promised a “democratic revolution” on their election but that Seanad abolition would leave Ireland with a political system weaker than any other in the developed world.
He said abolition would remove the potential for contrarian voices at a time when more oversight was needed after the economic crisis. He said debate was one of the most fundamental aspects of democracy and that it was being shut down by the Government.
Mr Bruton, Fine Gael’s referendum campaign director, was a late addition to the bill after Taoiseach Enda Kenny declined RTÉ’s invitation.
Speaking from the audience during the debate, Independent Senator John Crown criticised the Taoiseach for not participating, which drew loud applause.
When it was put to Richard Bruton that Fine Gael’s €20 million savings figure had been proven as bogus, HE replied that it was not the case and would be the job of Government to ensure the saving was realised.
However, Mr Martin said former Dáil clerk Kieran Coughlan had said savings would be less than €10 million and that the Oireachtas finance officer said the sum could not be estimated. He said the €20 million saving was the “big lie of this campaign”.
“You decided to take the low road in this campaign and to denigrate politics and the democratic system,” he told Mr Bruton.
Speaking from the audience, Sinn Féin councillor Matt Carthy said the big lie of the campaign was that a No vote will lead to reform. He said those advocating reform most were those who had missed the greatest opportunity to deliver it.