Kenny addresses Seanad on reform

Wednesday 23 October 2013 23.18
Enda Kenny said he was willing to listen to senators' ideas on Seanad reform
Enda Kenny said he was willing to listen to senators' ideas on Seanad reform

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has addressed the Seanad about reform of the upper house following the rejection of its abolition in the recent referendum.

Mr Kenny started his speech by joking that "I come in peace and not in war".

He said he accepts the verdict of the people and he wants to move on with a process of change.

Mr Kenny said he informed the leader of Seanad that he wanted to come listen to the senators' ideas on how they see the house being reformed.

The Taoiseach said the Seanad electoral system and the functions that might be assigned to the upper house are the two areas most often discussed in terms of Seanad reform.

He said the legislation to give effect to the 1979 decision of the people to change the Seanad electorate needs to be enacted.

Independent Senator Feargal Quinn welcomed the Taoiseach to the Seanad.

Mr Quinn said he was "magnanimous" and his decision to come was "a measure of the man".

He said the Taoiseach has his full support for reform, but it needs to happen immediately.

Senator Quinn said it is to the Taoiseach's credit that he is going to address the issue, but said there is a need to open up the Seanad and give every Irish citizen a vote.

He said the Crown and Zappone/Quinn Bills could bring about reform immediately.

Fianna Fáil Senator Daragh O'Brien asked that future referendum campaigns are based in fact.

He said that should campaigning and posters be patently incorrect, such as the €20m saving line on posters in the recent referendum, the information should be corrected during the campaign.

Senator O'Brien said: "We have been treated like the sick man of the Oireachtas."

Senator Maurice Cummins, the leader of the upper house, said the main business of the Seanad is legislation.

He listed a number of important pieces of legislation passed in the house.

Senator Cummins said a task force on Seanad reform should be led by the Taoiseach's office and the task force should examine reform proposals already announced.

He said the task force should report within three months and there should be a period of public consultation within that.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout opened her contribution with the quote: "I wouldn't start from here, but here is where we are."

She welcomed and supported the Taoiseach's proposal to bring in legislation in line with the 1979 referendum.

Ms Van Turnhout said the focus of reform should not only be on the Seanad, but also on how the two houses work together.