Seanad abolition would ‘cement ministerial control’ - FF

Micheál Martin says Government claims reform has been delivered are ‘ridiculous’

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: calimed the Government has failed to deliver any meaningful political reforms. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: calimed the Government has failed to deliver any meaningful political reforms. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The abolition of Seanad Éireann would cement absolute ministerial control over the Irish political system and mark the end of any chance of achieving substantive political reform, Fianna Fáil has said.

Speaking in Dublin today at the launch of his party’s campaign for a No vote, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his Government had failed to deliver a promised “democratic revolution” and there has not been a single effective change to how Ireland was governed.

The Cabinet last week discussed its efforts in the area of political reform at its first meeting since the summer Dáil recess and the message emerging was that 60 per cent of its targets had been reached.

Mr Martin said branding the abolition of powerless town councils, introducing extra sitting days for the Dáil during which no votes are allowed and a plan to scrap the Seanad as “transformative reform” is “transparently ridiculous”.

“The situation is so bad that even the Fine Gael whip (Paul Kehoe) and chairman (Charlie Flanagan) have called their record on parliamentary reform deplorable,” he said.

“Over the last two and a half years the situation has actually gotten worse. The guillotining of debate has increased. Ministers regularly refuse to answer even basic questions about their performance. Other parties are consulted less, even on issues were achieving a consensus has been easy in the past.”

Mr Martin said nobody wanted to see the Seanad kept in its current form and that a No vote in the October 4th referendum would oblige Government to come back with a real reform plan.

“The Seanad referendum is about being able to claim a record of reform without actually having to deliver it,” he added. “

Fianna Fáil’s director of elections for the campaign, Niall Collins TD, said the Constitution was a “precious” document that should not be “torn up on a whim” as would be the case in the event of Seanad abolition.

Mr Collins said abolishing the Seanad was “a personal hobby horse of Enda Kenny’s” and the rest of the Government was too timid to speak out against him and say a diversity of opinion was needed.

“Parliamentary scrutiny of legislation will be reduced,” he said. “At the same time all power will reside in a Dáil dominated by the decisions of a committee of four Government members (the Economic Management Council).”

In its 2011 general election manifesto, Fianna Fáil said the Dáil should be reformed and the Seanad should be abolished as it had failed to prevent the bad decisions that ultimately resulted in the economic crash.

Asked if his party had changed its stance on this, Mr Martin replied that every party had promised reform and there had been little in the way of delivery to date.

Fianna Fáil said it would be spending about €80,000 raised through its party superdraw on its No vote campaign. The party is to erect posters and distribute up to a million leaflets and visit every constituency in the State.

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