Kenny plans to extend Seanad voting rights to all graduates

Taoiseach tells FG conference State will exit EU-IMF bailout on December 15th

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to media during the second day of the Fine Gael national conference in Limerick today. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to media during the second day of the Fine Gael national conference in Limerick today. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

The Government intends to extend the entitlement to vote in Seanad elections to all third-level graduates “as a small first step” towards the reform of the Upper House, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

In a speech last night to the Fine Gael national conference in Limerick, Mr Kenny said the outcome of last week’s Seanad abolition referendum was clear and that the Government would continue to reform the political system and ensure the Seanad was “as effective as possible”.

A 1979 referendum on extending the Seanad franchise to graduates of “any other institutions of higher education in the State” was emphatically passed but the measure has not been enacted to date. At present, graduates of the National University of Ireland and Trinity College Dublin each elect three senators.

“I intend to discuss this with other leaders in the coming weeks and, as a small first step, I have asked that legislation be prepared to give effect to the 1979 decision of the Irish people to extend the Seanad electorate to all graduates,” said Mr Kenny, who was behind the idea to hold last week’s referendum.

On the economy, the Taoiseach said Ireland was on track to exit its EU-IMF bailout on December 15th and, while this did not mean the State’s financial troubles would be over, he pledged “we won’t go back”.

“Yes, there are still fragile times ahead. There’s still a long way to go. But at last, the era of the bailout will be no-more. The economic emergency will be over.”

In order to plan for life after the bailout, Mr Kenny said the Government would publish a medium term economic strategy before the end of the year.

“We will use our economic freedom to return Ireland to full employment and to plan for better living standards across the country,” he said.

Mr Kenny said Tuesday’s budget would be “tough” but that the key objectives, to invest in creating jobs and reaching bailout targets, were in the public interest.

On social issues, Mr Kenny said the Government’s decision to bring the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill “was the right thing for the women of Ireland” and achieved “a delicate balance” that protected the life of mother and baby.

He said previous governments had steered well clear of the issue but he as Taoiseach was “convinced of the need to provide that clarity” to medical professionals and comfort to expectant mothers.

A group of anti-abortion protestors gathered outside the conference at the South Court Hotel yesterday urging Fine Gael to repeal the law and their demonstration could be heard in the auditorium as Mr Kenny delivered his televised address.

Mr Kenny said the Government had overhauled bankruptcy laws and created the Personal Insolvency Service in an effort to rebalance the rights of borrower and lender.

“We have made it very clear to banks, and they have agreed that by the end of next year, they must have reached sustainable arrangements with the vast majority of mortgage-holders in distress,” he said.

“Because that distress is not just financial. It’s emotional, psychological, physical, it’s in every corner of our country. And it must be relieved if people are to get on with their lives and our country is to heal.”

Mr Kenny said the State was making progress addressing unemployment but that there were still too many people out of work and leaving the country.

He thanked the public for “your sacrifice, your patience” given the fact people were living with lower salaries and higher costs.

“Yes, we still have a long way to go. But because of what you did at your end of the bargain, finally, there are better days ahead.”