Kenny to campaign for Seanad abolition

Enda Kenny intends to actively campaign and inform the public about the need to abolish the Seanad ahead of a planned referendum next autumn on closing the upper house.

The Taoiseach also suggested that voters may be asked to decide on a number of other constitutional issues on the same day as the Seanad referendum.

Past and present senators oppose moves to shut down the Seanad, arguing that there will be a democratic deficit if it is abolished. Mr Kenny has said that voters will decide on the matter.

Former tánaiste and Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell is also opposing its closure.

However, the Progressive Democrats’ founder, former tánaiste Desmond O’Malley, has said the Seanad is “unnecessary and undemocratic”.

Mr Kenny’s participation in the campaign would likely see a series of heated debates between both sides, with the Government also actively pushing to get rid of its own senators after the next election.

Several Labour senators broke ranks with the Coalition earlier this year and voted with an opposition motion to debate the future of the Seanad in the convention on the Constitution.

Asked whether he intended campaigning on the Seanad referendum, Mr Kenny replied: “Of course I do. Why would I not be — surely you do understand that when I say that we will have a referendum on this, that I believe in it. And it is a central part of our structure of political reform, thereby reducing the number of Oireachtas members very substantially.

“But as I said in the Seanad when I spoke to them, their fate lies in the hands of the people and the people are going to be given the opportunity to adjudicate on the Seanad, and they’ll have that opportunity in the autumn of next year.”

Mr Kenny also signalled that other issues could be added to the ballot papers on the day, depending on the outcome of the initial stages of the forum on the Constitution.

“It may well be,” said Mr Kenny. “Absolutely. Because let’s see what the Constitutional Convention throws up. They are starting with two relatively simple issues that you can make a decision on.” These issues are a reduction in the presidential term from seven years to five, and alignment with the local and European elections; and reduction in the voting age from 18 to 17.

Mr Kenny added that he had made a commitment to the convention to decide within four months about whether to have a referendum on a matter.

“I did give them the guarantee that, if they come back with a proposal, they will get an answer one way or the other inside four months,” he said. “If that answer is positive, we will give an indicative timeline.

“The answer to your question is there could well be a few referenda, depending on what we want to do. Certainly the Seanad one is going to be in there.”


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