Government publishes Seanad abolition referendum details

Amendment seeks to abolish Seanad after next general election and before first sitting of new Dáil

The Government has announced proposals for Seanad reform. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

The Government has announced proposals for Seanad reform. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


The Government has published its proposed amendment to the Constitution to abolish the Seanad.

The 32nd Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill 2013 contains 40 amendments to the Constitution which will remove all references to the upper house

The amendment, which will put to the electorate in a referendum in the Autumn, proposes to abolish the Seanad after the next general election and before the first sitting of new Dáil.

Articles dealing with the composition of the Seanad, and with relations between both Houses of the Oireachtas as regards legislation, are to be deleted.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, if approved, the proposals “will create a better, more effective political system with better accountability, better oversight and better scrutiny of legislation”.

Mr Kenny said Ireland had too many politicians for its size.

“We must question the very relevance of a second chamber. If the last decade of misrule has proven anything it is that modern Ireland cannot be governed effectively by a political system originally designed for 19th century Britain.”

“The Seanad did nothing to challenge the unattainable policies of the Celtic Tiger. The Seanad is an outmoded institution that owes more to 1930s vocationalist ideas than it does to modern constitutional thinking.”

“Its elitist composition is, in my view, completely incompatible with a democratic modern Ireland, it has ceased to be relevant,” Mr Kenny said.

He also pointed to the fact that all of the Scandinavian countries had abolished their second houses.

Dáil reforms, which would see the number of TDs reduced by eight, were published in tandem with the Seanad proposals.

Both sets of proposals would reduce the number of public representatives by almost one third, Mr Kenny said, saving the exchequer up to €20 million annually.

Under the proposals, there would be 14 Dáil committees, each with 12 members with the committee chairs selected via a d’Hondt system based “on a proportional and equitable basis”.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: “Our institutions are only as good as the purpose they serve - and that purpose is a fair and effective democracy.”

“The proposal to abolish the Seanad, and have a single chamber parliament, is part of that ongoing evolution,” he said.