Taoiseach accepts reform needed to create more 'effective' Seanad

Kenny insists there would be no rerun of the referendum

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has acknowledged publicly for the first time that Seanad reform will be on the Government’s agenda following the defeat of the referendum to abolish it.

Mr Kenny said yesterday he would look to see how the Seanad could become "more effective" and indicated he might favour a reform agenda that would take place without constitutional change.

During the referendum campaign, Mr Kenny strongly indicated that the Seanad would remain as it was, without reform, in the event of a No vote.


However, speaking in Co Sligo yesterday, he said: “We have to deal now with how to make the Seanad effective, in the process of political change that I am anxious to see, in the interests of accountability and transparency, for the people and for the capacity of the Dáil to hold the executive to account, which is their constitutional responsibility.”


He added: “The Seanad is constrained by virtue of its constitution. I do not intend to set up a separate legislature. The question is, how effective can we make change within those restraints?”

Mr Kenny insisted there would be no rerun of the referendum: "We know now that, like the All-Ireland final, it is not going to be replayed, so we have to deal with the question of how you make a Seanad effective."

He also defended his decision not to take part in a televised debate with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, saying it would have "turned into a shouting match".

He also said it was unclear if his refusal had had any impact on the result of the referendum.

While Labour's Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte and Fine Gael TD John Deasy have both said Mr Kenny should have agreed to participate in the TV debate, a number of the Taoiseach's Fine Gael colleagues yesterday played down the issue as a factor in the outcome.

Minister of State for Finance Brian Hayes said: "There were lots of different factors. I did not think the Taoiseach's refusal to debate was a deciding factor. It was that those who wanted to retain the Seanad were more vociferous."

As the Seanad reconvenes for its first sitting after the referendum, Fine Gael chairman Charlie Flanagan warned that the equally important need to reform the Dáil should not be "eclipsed" by Seanad reform. His party colleague Dublin South-East TD Eoghan Murphy said failings in making progress with Dáil reform had rebounded on the Government.

“We have not proved ourselves on Dáil reform and made it an effective place for checks and balances,” he said.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times