Seanad debate on abolition adjourned

Attempt to delay referendum on the proposed abolition of the Seanad defeated by 31 votes to 27

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames who voted against the Government on the issue this evening

Senator Fidelma Healy Eames who voted against the Government on the issue this evening


The Seanad has adjourned its final stage debate on the Bill paving the way for a referendum to abolish the Upper House until tomorrow.

Debate on the legislation had been expected to end tonight with a final vote but it had not concluded by the 10pm deadline.

All bar one of the 78 proposed amendments on the Bill were ruled out of order and many of the 60 senators are now expected to speak on the amendment. There is no limit to the time a senator can speak for although they are allowed to make a single contribution.

Earlier, an attempt to delay the referendum on the proposed abolition of the Seanad was defeated by 31 votes to 27.

Taoiseach’s nominees Katherine Zappone and Mary Ann O’Brien voted against the Government on the issue as did former Fine Gael parliamentary party members Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy-Eames.

It is the first clear indication of the likely outcome of the final vote on the Bill to allow the referendume go ahead.

Members of the Opposition shouted “shame on you” and “stop taking your salary” to members on the Government benches.

Eight of the Taoiseach’s nominees voted with the Government as did all parliamentary party members of Fine Gael and Labour.

All 14 Fianna Fáil senators, the three Sinn Féin senators, and all remaining independents voted for the amendment moved by Feargal Quinn (Ind).

Mr Quinn’s motion, seconded by fellow Independent David Norris, proposed that the Thirty-second Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Éireann) Bill be recommitted to a full committee stage debate by the House.

He made his proposal at the start of the report and final stage debate on the Bill.

Mr Quinn said the Seanad was in the last chance saloon and the House needed to ask itself the fundamental question as to whether there had been proper debate on the question.

“If we do not discuss this matter properly, we are sleep walking into a situation where the executive’s stranglehold on political debate is strengthened,’’ he added. “We may end up with a single chamber parliament with no space for independent and minority voices.’’

Opposing the motion, Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) said the House had commenced debate on the Bill on June 26th and, over the course of four days, 10 hours were allocated for the second stage, with 54 members taking the opportunity to contribute. Committee stage had been held over two days last week, with more than 12 hours of debate. “Eight of those hours were spent on a discussion about section one of the Bill, which, in my view, was not the best use of the allocated time.’’

Mr Cummins repeated his view that the timing of a statement on the proposed referendum by members of his own party, Minister Richard Bruton and TD Regina Doherty on Monday, was less than helpful and disrespectful when the Bill had not passed through the Oireachtas.

“I stand over that statement, but as the Government representative here I think I have allocated more than sufficient time at second and committee stages,’’ he added. “We are now on report stage and we will have further time.’’