Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil launch Seanad referendum campaigns

Tuesday 10 September 2013 22.05
Enda Kenny insisted the Seanad had no role in holding the executive to account
Enda Kenny insisted the Seanad had no role in holding the executive to account

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has claimed the political system, Fine Gael included, has failed to deal with the Seanad for 50 years.

Mr Kenny was speaking at the launch of the Fine Gael campaign to abolish the Seanad in a referendum on Friday 4 October.

The Taoiseach said when he made the pledge to abolish the Seanad four years ago, many never expected the question to be put to the people, but he was now making good that promise.

He claimed it was no coincidence that members of the parties involved in the last two governments - Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats - were now in favour of retaining the Seanad.

Mr Kenny insisted the Seanad had no role in holding the executive to account.

He said that gave the lie to claims from his opponents that he was involved in a power grab.

Fine Gael's campaign director Richard Bruton said abolition of the Seanad was one element in what he said was a sweeping campaign of political reform the Government was undertaking.

He said the upper house of the Oireachtas was an ineffective watchdog, elitist and undemocratic in its make-up.

Elsewhere, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin claimed the abolition of the Seanad would deliver no substantial reform to the political system.

Speaking at the launch of his party's campaign for a No vote on 4 October, Mr Martin said abolition would cement absolute ministerial control over the political system and mark the end of any chance of achieving reform.

He insisted his party was not campaigning to keep the Seanad as it is.

Mr Martin said its deficiencies were clear, but to dismiss the many amendments it has made to legislation or to try to scapegoat it for the economic collapse was absurd.

He accused the Government of reneging on its promise of a "democratic revolution" and said his party had learned the lessons of the past and the failure to introduce political reforms.

Mr Martin also challenged Mr Kenny to debate the issues.

In response, the Taoiseach insisted that the Fianna Fáil leader would have his chance at Leaders' Questions.

Mr Kenny said he believed very strongly that the committee system held the key to demonstrating to people that the preparation of legislation could be made more responsive and effective.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Seanad as it currently stands has to be abolished as it is dysfunctional and unequal.

However, she said the party is not ruling out the prospect of a second chamber in the future.

Speaking at the launch of Sinn Féin's political reform programme, she said there is scope for further discussion at a new Constitutional Convention to discuss whether Ireland needs a two-chamber system.