Outside, the living dead . . . Inside, the dead bored

Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were making a joint appearance. Of sorts. They favour a Yes vote. On the other referendum

Their poor little faces.

Some unkind people started muttering about turkeys before Christmas.

We preferred to think of nicely fattened veal calves about to trot off to market.

Those weren't tears, but streaks of rain. The heavens opened when Senators (and a few stray TDs) made their way on to the plinth yesterday afternoon to plead for a stay
of execution.


The group moved down towards the media gathering. “Could we have the main spokesperson here?” requested a journalist, indicating that he or she should come closer to the microphones.

The politicians and the part-timers looked around at each other and allowed John Crown to step forward. Once he did, everyone else surged forward after him until they were a big bunch again.

Feargal Quinn was left behind in the push to the microphones and cameras. “I’ll see nothing, with my height,” he sighed.

The supremely self-assured Prof Crown took serious issue with the government's assertion that abolishing the Seanad will save €20 million.

He feels the Upper House should be kept "as part of a redemocratised Oireachtas process in Ireland". If the people vote to retain it, it would place "huge moral pressure" on the Government to deliver a reformed Seanad.

Good luck with that.

The death-row inmates crowded around Crown. They included Fianna Fáil's Marc Mac Sharry, staring into the middle distance, looking pensive and pained, Labhrás Ó Murchú staring meaningfully towards the camera and Paschal Mooney wearing a grave expression on his face.

Bearing up bravely
There was a lad with a beard who was identified as Labour Senator James Heffernan
– he jumped ship after the
last budget and hasn't been seen very much after that. Mary Moran, still very
much in Labour, was bearing up bravely.

If the chamber is abolished “we will have to accept the will of the people” declared the Tánaiste’s nominee.

And the two McGraths – Mattie and Finian – were among a small group of TDs who came along to offer support from the Dáil.

TV3's Ursula Halligan, putting on her best bedside manner, gently asked the poor crathurs how they will feel if they have to return to Leinster House next week, and them abolished.

A familiar voice boomed from the fringes. "Betrayed! Betrayed! Absolutely Betrayed!" It was David Norris. John Crown had to give way.

Norris thundered that government “lies” and “half-truths” about saving money are shocking. In fact, he reckoned that, when everything was added up and taken into account, abolishing the Seanad could cost in the region of €150 million. And Senators would end up “in suspended animation here for two and a half years, demoralised, the walking dead . . .”

Fidelma Healy Eames thought abolishing the Seanad would probably save around “€8.8 million”.

And how would she feel if the people vote Yes to abolish her? “I will accept the will of the people,” she quivered.

Then one of the McGraths intervened.

A familiar neck emerged from the pack. “Ursula, Finian McGrath, Independent, Dublin Bay North,” he began, in case we didn’t know and in case the clip might make the news. He’s in a big redrawn constituency now.

Tough field
Mattie was clearing his throat around the other side, but it was a tough field when it came to getting speaking rights. Lucinda, at the back, didn't get to say anything.

University Senator and academic Seán Barrett had some encouraging news. “There is an opinion poll that has the Nos ahead today – done at lunchtime! Yes!”

Not many appeared to have heard about it.

Barrett was as angry as the rest of them. "I want to object to the way the Taoiseach is acting in a partitionist manner in denying my constituents in Northern Ireland the votes which they always had in the two university constituencies."

“A con job,” shouted Mattie. Senator Barrett said “62 per cent of emigrants are now graduates – they vote in the two university constituencies.” They won’t have a vote any more.

Everyone stressed they would not act the maggot if the electorate goes against them. They will do their jobs to the best of their abilities, although “we will be more free, if you like, to exercise our will” said Mary Moran, “although, if things arise we will be looking at them”.

Then they went off to pose for a group photograph.

It was busy on the plinth. They had to move off for another referendum press conference. This time on the referendum on the establishment of a Court of Appeal.

Joint appearance
Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were making a joint appearance. Of sorts. They favour a Yes vote.

However, while they agreed to be photographed together – Minister Alan Shatter, Junior Minister Alex White, Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Pádraig Mac Lochlainn – they wouldn't stand together and answer questions as a group.

Back in the Dáil, Fine Gael's Richard Bruton studied notes in advance of his appearance on last night's Seanad referendum TV debate. Across the floor, Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin did likewise.

There was a dead atmosphere in the chamber. Deputies seemed to have succumbed to a sort of anticipatory stupefaction brought on by excitement over the imminent debate. Or maybe they were just bored.