LRC chief defends move to chair an anti-Seanad group

Kieran Mulvey says his involvement will not compromise his professional duties

Chief of the Labour Relations Commission Kieran Mulvey has defended his move to chair an anti-Seanad group in the referendum campaign, saying his involvement will not compromise his professional duties.

Mr Mulvey's involvement in the One House campaign came in for criticism yesterday from former junior minister Lucinda Creighton, who issued a message on Twitter saying he should be asked whether it was a coincidence that he wanted to abolish the Seanad and "gag elected TDs".

She said he should reflect on how democracy should function when he feels an elected TD must not comment on a national pay deal. However, in response Mr Mulvey said it was very clear at a sensitive time in talks it was not helpful for particular ministers to speak “out of turn”.

Mr Mulvey said he never met Ms Creighton but suggested she seemed to have particular obsession with himself and his role in the LRC.


She rejected that, saying she supported democracy and robust parliamentary debate. “I’m not however a fan of democratic centralism and secret so-called ‘partnership’ deals brokered by unelected power-wielders.”

'Contorted logic'
Asked if his campaigning against the Seanad would undermine his independence at the helm of the LRC, he said his professional role and his role as a citizen were distinctly different.

He said it would require an “extraordinary contorted sense of logic” to suggest he could not mediate in disputes involving the Government because people would point out that he supported the Government’s stance on the Seanad.

"I have been in public life for nearly 40 years . . . I feel strongly as a citizen regarding this matter. I'm very conscious of my role as the chief executive and independence will not suffer nor my integrity by my involvement in this group in regard to the abolition of the Senate. "

One House has dismissed as “trickery” the notion that the Upper House will be reformed if the referendum is defeated. It says it is not aligned with any political party.

Members include barrister Richard Humphreys, who is a Labour councillor, retired politicians Barry Desmond, Alan Dukes, Liz McManus, Arthur Morgan, Mervyn Taylor, DCU academic Dr Eoin O'Malley, economist Jim Power, solicitor Mary Trayers, lecturer Kevin Rafter and trade unionist Blair Horan.

Toothless assembly
Mr Mulvey described the Seanad as a useless, irrelevant, toothless assembly elected by a small elite of politicians and university graduates.

At a press conference in Dublin, he noted that most Irish citizens have no right to vote in the Senate election. “It wields no power and has never held government to account.”

Mr Mulvey and other One House members rubbished a draft Bill to reform the Upper House from Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, saying it was not possible in this way to change the Constitution.

“It’s not a reform Bill. It’s just changing the chess board. The Constitution in this country is very clear. No reform Bill in the Senate can change the Constitution,” Mr Mulvey said.

“Some people seem to think that the question on the ballot paper is ‘would you like to reform the Seanad?’ It is not what the people will vote on. So let there be no trickery. There is one question facing the people on this ballot paper. Yes or no. There is no other question.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times