No need for ‘elitist’ Seanad, says Taoiseach
The Dáil has the exclusive right to hold Government to account, says Kenny
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny holds a copy of Bunreacht na hEireann as he officially launched Fine Gael’s campaign for a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Constitution confers exclusive power on the Dáil to hold the Government to account as he kicked off Fine Gael’s campaign to scrap the Seanad.
At an event yesterday in Dublin, Mr Kenny said there was no need for a “powerless, elitist” Upper House and said one parliamentary chamber was enough. He also argued there was no basis to suggest he was motivated by an “egotistical power grab” in putting the question to the people.
During the course of the campaign Fine Gael plans to circulate a million leaflets setting out its case to scrap the House.
Court of appeal
At the same event Minister for Justice Alan Shatter strongly urged a Yes vote to establish a new court of appeal in the second referendum to be held on October 4th.
Flanked by Fine Gael director of elections Richard Bruton, Mr Kenny said the people faced a difficult choice when asked about the mood of the public in relation to the Seanad referendum.
On the one hand, he said, people may want to send a message to the Government saying they were going through a tough time. He understood that and empathised with people who have difficulties but said there was no actual requirement for the Seanad.
But, pointing to a copy of the Constitution in his hand, he said the people will also understand the Seanad is “not an imperative to hold on to because the peoples’ book points out clearly that the Dáil is the body to hold the executive to account”.
Mr Kenny said the idea for a campaign to scrap the Seanad was his alone when he adopted it in opposition. Asked if he would accept an invitation from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to debate the matter on television, he said he was happy to deal with Mr Martin during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil.
“I note that Micheál has challenged me for a debate on this matter. I’m not sure which Micheál wants to turn up here. There was the Micheál that was very adamant about the abolition of the Seanad before the last election and then the new Micheál that said on second thoughts we should consider holding on to this,” he said.