Yes campaign reflected the advice of the ‘spinmeisters’ - John Crown
You’ve got to actually do the test - not send someone else in to sit your exam - Barrett
Micheál Martin TD, with Sen Sean Barrett, and Michael McDowell, SC at the Central Count Centre, in the Coach House, Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill
The No vote for abolition of the Seanad “will be a very hard lesson for the Government that you can’t govern by focus group”, according to Democracy Matters member Joe O’Toole.
NUI Senator John Crown also described the No result as a substantial defeat for the value of spin. “I think the Yes campaign pushed a lot of concepts and policies which in their hearts they knew were not correct.” The Government had been “advised by professional spinmeisters”.
He said it was “really important that Fine Gael and the Taoiseach don’t just go off in a huff about this but actually understand it is a clear message from the Irish people . . . a mandate for reform.”
Michael McDowell of Democracy Matters said “the No people were motivated by passion and the Yes side were motivated by party interests”.
The former Progressive Democrats leader said he had given Democracy Matters the maximum permissible amount of €2,500 and he then had to “go private” and produce his own brochure in his Dublin South East constituency.
A victorious but angry Trinity College Senator Seán Barrett said the Taoiseach ran a “scurrilous” campaign and he called for his resignation because “he’s spent €20 million on an ego trip”. The economist said Mr Kenny spent €14 million on the referendum campaign, €4 million on the Referendum Commission and €2 million on legal fees.
He said there was no Green or White Paper on the issue and Mr Kenny spent no more than an hour a year in the Seanad. He was particularly critical of the Taoiseach’s “appalling” approach to voters in the North. Mr Kenny “seemed to be unaware that by abolishing the Trinity constituency he was depriving all our voters in Northern Ireland of a vote. And they were phoning, emailing all their friends to turn out on the No side.” He was also critical of Mr Kenny’s failure to participate in a public debate against Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin. “We might say in university you’ve got to actually do the test. You can’t send somebody else in to sit your exam for you.”
Mr Martin, the only political party leader in the Dáil to oppose abolition, said the Taoiseach now had a duty to engage with other parties and civic society for real reform.
He echoed the sentiment of Labour Senator Jimmy Harte, when he told about 1,000 jubilant party members at the Fianna Fáil annual president’s dinner that when Mr Kenny first announced his wish to abolish the Seanad, at his own party’s annual dinner four years ago, “it was the most expensive after-dinner speech ever”.
Independent Senator and Taoiseach’s nominee Katherine Zappone said she hoped Mr Kenny would understand the vote to be a mandate for reform.