Vote to abolish Seanad for September

Government unlikely to hold vote in the same month as budget

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is adamant he will proceed with his proposal, made in Opposition, to abolish the Seanad.   Photograph: Alan Betson

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is adamant he will proceed with his proposal, made in Opposition, to abolish the Seanad. Photograph: Alan Betson

Mon, Apr 8, 2013, 06:00

The referendum to abolish the Seanad is now expected to be held in September under revised Government plans.

The referendum was initially scheduled for October, but could now be brought forward a month because of the Government’s recent decision to have next year’s budget on October 15th, rather than early December, to comply with an EU-wide process of budgetary surveillance.

“It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to hold such an important referendum in the run-up to, or just after, the budget,’’ said a Government source. “The budget will be hugely important for the Government and Ministers will not want to be distracted by a referendum.’’

The Government had ruled out between January and June to hold the referendum because of Ireland’s EU presidency.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is adamant that he will proceed with his proposal, made in Opposition, to abolish the Seanad. He has made it clear to party colleagues that there will be no U-turn on the issue. Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is likely to leave it up to individual TDs and Senators to decide what to do in the campaign. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin are expected to campaign for the Seanad’s retention but with significant reforms.

The Seanad costs an estimated €30 million annually. A recent Irish Times opinion poll showed strong support for abolition.

With undecided voters excluded, 74 per cent of people said they would vote Yes for abolition with just 26 per cent saying they would vote No.

A discussion document arguing for its retention has been launched by an informal group, including Independent senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone. They want reform by way of legislation rather than a referendum.

Others arguing for its reform rather than abolition include former tánaiste Michael McDowell, former senator Joe O’Toole and Irish Times columnist and barrister Noel Whelan.

The Government is expected to hold two other referendums on the same day as the one to abolish the Seanad. These would allow for changes in the patent law and reform of the courts system.