Former ministers advocate Yes vote

Former FF senator Des Hanafin calls for No vote, saying Yes campaign are ‘cynical’

Des Hanafin: accused the Government of running a “cynical and bullying” campaign, which had “been marked by misinformation and a refusal to debate”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Six former government ministers have called for a Yes vote in the Seanad referendum campaign.

In a cross-party alliance Des O'Malley (FF and PDs), Alan Dukes and Gemma Hussey (FG), and Barry Desmond, Mervyn Taylor and Liz McManus (Labour) have advocated that the Seanad should be abolished.

In a joint statement yesterday, they said: “The Seanad has not served the need for checks and balances and, in fact, has acquiesced in every Bill passed by the Dáil for 50 years.

“It serves no function that cannot be performed more democratically by the Dáil alone. The abolition of the Seanad will improve our democracy.”


Three of the former ministers – Mr Desmond, Ms Hussey and Ms McManus – attended a press conference in Dublin yesterday advocating a Yes vote.

It was chaired by Labour Relations Commission chief executive Kieran Mulvey who, with the former ministers and others, is a member of the One House group advocating a Yes vote.

'Bullying' campaign
On the No side, former Fianna Fáil senator Des Hanafin accused the Government of running a "cynical and bullying" campaign, which had "been marked by misinformation and a refusal to debate".

Calling for a No vote on Friday, he said: “Not only has the Seanad provided a very important and critical second pair of eyes in the scrutiny and examination of legislation over the years, it has been a vital forum for calm and informed debates on issues of national importance.”

Meanwhile, Seanad sources yesterday played down reports that Fine Gael and Labour Senators would be deliberately disruptive in passing Government legislation if the referendum to abolish the Seanad is carried.

'Uncharted territory'
While one Fine Gael Senator conceded that the Upper House would be in "uncharted territory'' if the referendum was passed, he said he expected that most Government Senators would behave responsibly.

A Labour Senator said: “I think we might be more vigorous in attempting to amend legislation, but the public will look very unfavourably on us if we appear to go into a sulk because our jobs have been abolished.”

Another Government Senator said the last thing the outgoing Senators would want to do was precipitate a general election.

“In the name of God, how would we look to the public? A group of relatively well paid politicians bringing the Government down because our jobs were abolished in a democratic referendum.”

Delay Bills
Meanwhile, as canvassing continued yesterday, Fine Gael director of elections Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton recruited the help of two Beatles lookalikes to make a point about the Seanad's power to delay Bills.

“We have been informing people about the Seanad throughout this campaign, and today we have enlisted the help of the Beatles to highlight the fact that the last time the Seanad used its limited power to delay a piece of legislation was 1964, when the iconic band had its first US number one hit.”

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times