Senator calls on Taoiseach to resign over ‘€20m ego trip’

Fine Gael is urged to see result as ‘clear message for fundamental political reform’

Senator Sean Barrett (centre) , TCD. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES

Senator Sean Barrett (centre) , TCD. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES


A call has been made for the Taoiseach to resign after the expected No vote in the referendum to abolish the Seanad.

Trinity College senator Sean Barrett said “the Taoiseach spent €20 million on an ego trip”.

That included €14 million on the campaign, €4 million on the Referendum Commission* and €2 million on legal advice. “I think he should (resign). There is no green paper, no white paper. He never comes into the Senate anyway, just one hour a year.”

Independent Senator John Crown rejected this view but said Fine Gael and the Taoiseach shouldn’t “just go off in a huff about this” but should see the result as a clear message for fundamental political reform.

And Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, the only politician on the Yes side to attend the RDS as it became clear the Seanad would be retained, said the Government should not “take this as a signal to sit on their hands and to simply leave the Seanad trundle on. I think this would be completely unacceptable.”

Mr Barrett, who was speaking in the RDS before all six city constituencies declared against abolition, said Mr Kenny’s “treatment of the Northern Ireland graduates is appalling”.

“He and Brian Hayes don’t seem to be aware that under the Constitution all the TCD and NUI graduates who live in Northern Ireland are entitled to a vote and they’d no vote in the referendum to abolish the Senate but they twittered and tweeted all their friends in the South to vote for them,” he said.

But Senator Katherine Zappone said she would not agree with resignation.

“My hope for the Taoiseach is that if the No side wins that he will understand that to be a mandate for reform and that he would invite those of us who have been working on reform and have Bills in place to come in and discuss this with him so that we can discuss with him the best way to reform the Seanad now that the people have spoken.”

Professor Crown said it was “really important that Fine Gael and the Taoiseach don’t just go off in a huff about this but actually understand that it is a clear message from the Irish people. It is a mandate them to reform, not just for the Seanad but fundamental political reform.”

He said: “I think that’s what really couched the whole debate, is the people’s desire for fundamental political reform.”

Professor Crown said a lot of people changed their mind in the past seven days because there had been a lot of very strong campaigning. “I think there was a lot of additional muscle in the campaign over the last week.”

Trinity Senator David Norris said he was grateful to the Taoiseach for one thing: “He has put reform of the Seanad firmly on the agenda and I believe people this time won’t let it go, and sure as blazes we in Seanad Eireann won’t let it go now; we have the bit between our teeth.

Reacting to the No vote, Michael McDowell of Democracy matters said: “The No people were really motivated by a passion and the Yes people were motivated by party interest.” The former Progressive Democrats leader added that “Enda Kenny has no choice now but to listen to the voice of the people and reform the Seanad”.

* This article was amended on October 6th. An earlier version of this story referred to the Constitutional Convention rather than the Referendum Commission.