Taoiseach rejects ‘uno duce una voce’ accusation
FF leader launches scathing attack on Taoiseach for refusing to debate Seanad issue on TV with him
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the press conference concluding the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party conference, in Killenard, Co Laois today. Photograph: Eric Luke / THE IRISH TIMES
Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin TD and Senator Averill Power on the final day of the two-day Fianna Fáil think-in at the Tower Hotel Waterford. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / THE IRISH TIMES
Members of the Fianna Fáil Parlimentary party post for for a “family photo” on the final day of the two-day Fianna Fáil think- in at the Tower Hotel Waterford. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien / THE IRISH TIMES.
Mr Martin’s attacked Mr Kenny for his refusal to debate the Seanad referendum on the airwaves describing his style as disingenuous and dictatorial. In his criticism of the Taoiseach, Mr Martin invoked the phrase ‘uno duce una voce’ which became associated with the autocratic leadership style of former Fianna Fáil taoiseach Charles Haughey.
However, Mr Kenny hit back later saying: “It ill-behoves any member of the Fianna Fáil party to accuse me of being a dictator. Far from that. I probably am the most open person who has handled this office, who has had the privilege of sitting in this office. My politics are about the people and about the country”
Speaking to reporters at the end of a two-day Fine Gael think-in in Co Laois, Mr Kenny said: “Micheál Martin should know better. I had the privilege of appointing people to the Seanad. The vast majority were completely and utterly independent. They were never contacted by me subsequent to that to ask them to support the Government on any bill on any vote. It is the most democratic thing to ask the people for their imprimatur and for their approval in a case where governments over the year failed to do this.
“Micheál Martin’s party want 100 senators appointed, 100 senators, in a party that ignored all the elements of politics, he himself sat down at the Cabinet table or was contacted incorporeally about the banking situation. He himself as a minister for health refused to accept any responsibility for situations where up to €1 billion were taken off elderly people in geriatric homes,” Mr Kenny added.
Earlier, setting out a view that many Fine Gael TDs and Senators are opposed to the abolition of the Upper House, Mr Martin said: “But because of this, how would I put it, ‘uno duce una voce’, approach of Enda Kenny and his people and the dictatorial approach, [FINE GAEL]people afraid to vote against it.”
The phrase, which means ‘one duke one voice’, is an Italian slogan from the 1930s used by the fascist movement to describe the authority of its leader Benito Mussolini, otherwise known as Il Duce.
It was first used in the Irish context by then government press secretary PJ Mara in the 1980s in the wake of a failed leadership challenge to Mr Haughey. In a briefing to correspondents, he said ‘uno duce una voce’ and added that there would be “no more nibbling at my leader’s bum”.
Mr Martin was reacting to Mr Kenny’s interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland when he said that there would be no live broadcast debate with Mr Martin.
The Fianna Fáil leader said it was disingenuous of the Taoiseach to suggest there could be a debate in the Dáil. He said the rigid format of Leaders Questions where the opposition leader gets two minutes to ask a question and the Taoiseach responds within three minutes would not be conducive to a debate.
“If the thinks Leaders Questions somehow constitutes a head-on debate on the abolition of the Seanad, it is is a joke.
“He needs to answer in a very cogent way why he won’t debate in public head-to-head on one of our broadcasting stations the decision to abolish the Seanad. It is his proposal, his decision.
“He is afraid or is avoiding what would be a logical outcome in any democracy. He is ducking and diving and he needs to give a better answer.”
Mr Martin again repeated his challenge to Mr Kenny for a debate and suggested that if Fine Gael’s campaign director Richard Bruton, against whom he debated last weekend, were leader he would have no such problem.
“I do think [MR KENNY]lacks the courage of conviction in terms of the proposal he is putting forward. I think it’s insulting to the intelligence of the public that he puts forward such a proposition without debate.
“It’s unacceptable in a modern democracy.”
Asked why Fianna Fáil had flip-flopped its position since 2011 when it supported abolition of the Seanad, Mr Martin said:
“We have changed our position in that respect. We wanted fundamental reform in the way that Ireland is governed and the relationship between parliament and government. That has simply not happened and the situation has got worse.
“Our fundamental position is that we have a government with a record majority and we have witnessed over the past two and a half years how it has abused that majority.
Learning the lesson from that, we now believe that there is a role for a new Seanad directly elected by the people.”
Asked did he accept that the party got it wrong in 2011, he replied that reform had not happened and Fianna Fáil was entitled to reevaluate its position over two and a half years.
Mr Martin said that a lot could be done in reforming the Seanad, including minority representation for emigrants, travellers and other groups.