Martin challenges Kenny to TV debate on Seanad

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been challenged to a head-to-head debate on TV on the future of the Seanad by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who accused him of avoiding public discussions.

In the second part of an interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Martin said his party will join forces with other groups opposed to the abolition of the Upper House and that the proposed vote on the issue was just a distraction from the looming budget.

The Cork South Central TD accused the Government of having an “unhealthy” control over parliament and that there was, therefore, a need to retain and reform the Seanad.

“The Government has far too much control over parliament, excessive control over parliament.

“A second chamber offers a brake on the power of government.”

Fianna Fáil are opposed to the Oct 4 referendum proposal by the Coalition to close the Seanad and say the manner in which members get elected, their powers, pay and roles should be overhauled.

Mr Martin recently argued for such measures as he shared a stage with former Tanaiste Michael McDowell, who also wants to retain the Seanad, at the MacGill summer school.

The party leader said he was willing to work with other groups to oppose the Coalition’s campaign.

“We will work in common cause with those who are seeking retention of the Seanad, reform of the Seanad.”

He said Mr Kenny was talking “mumbo jumbo” about empowered committees if the Seanad was closed.

“Even if the referendum is carried, it doesn’t take effect for another two years. There’s no need to rush this one.”

He said there was an element of Mr Kenny timing the referendum to distract voters from the looming budget.

Mr Martin said he wanted Mr Kenny to go on live television and publicly argue why Ireland should only have one house of parliament.

“I’d challenge him to a debate on that because he avoids debates, he doesn’t do debates anymore, unless he wants to. He picks and chooses who he’s interviewed by, the time and length of the interview. So he doesn’t actually do debates.”

An opinion poll published last week showed support for the abolition of the Seanad is continuing to fall.

The Millward Brown poll found 37% of respondents favoured abolition of the upper house, a fall of six points since the last poll in June.

While Fianna Fáil, former politicians and campaign groups are fighting to keep the Seanad, Sinn Féin has declared that it will take the Government’s side of campaigning for its abolition

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