Seanad incapable of reform, says Enda Kenny

Taoiseach describes Upper House as ineffective, powerless and undemocratic

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has argued the Seanad is an ineffective and powerless body that is not capable of reform.

At Fine Gael's final media event before the referendum, Mr Kenny yesterday ruled out any prospect of reform of the Seanad, saying the simple choice facing the people was abolition or retention.

“It costs €20 million a year to run. It is undemocratic. It is minority-representative. It is not possible to reform this body,” he said.

'No convincing argument'
Elsewhere, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said there was no convincing argument for a parliament with two chambers in a country the size of Ireland.


Speaking at the final Labour Party press conference before tomorrow's poll, Mr Gilmore said the referendums – on the abolition of the Seanad and the establishment of the court of appeal – were both straightforward and he was advocating a Yes vote in both.

“We need one effective parliament. We do not need two parliamentary chambers,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Seanad is a dysfunctional and elitist institution that should be abolished.

Speaking outside Leinster House yesterday, Mr Adams said voters from "across the spectrum" should vote Yes in tomorrow's referendums on Seanad abolition and on the establishment of a court of appeal.

He said he feared voters felt so “burdened” by the economic decisions of the current and previous governments that they might not be “so well motivated on the Seanad referendum particularly” but he stressed that their votes could make a difference.

The Taoiseach made his comments at the bandstand at St Stephen's Green in Dublin, where Fine Gael unveiled a large jigsaw-type montage showing Ireland as the missing piece in a number of European countries that have one chamber.

“The Dáil is the House that under our Constitution is where the Government of the day is held accountable,” Mr Kenny said.

“We will see that that happens in the way that legislation is drafted . . . in a much more open and democratic fashion.”

He gave examples of some of the reforms that have taken place, including the introduction of gender quotas, committee reform and the removal of 600 council seats in local government reform proposals.

“Nothing can be more democratic than asking people for this change,” he said. “The political system has failed for 70 years under all governments, including my own, to deal with this.

“We made a specific commitment to ask the people this question. It requires a straight answer”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times