Many TDs and senators who gathered at the party’s conference in Laois yesterday privately expressed a lack of support or enthusiasm to canvass for Enda Kenny’s campaign for a yes vote in the referendum to shut the Upper House on Oct 4.
The party’s leader in the Seanad, Maurice Cummins, revealed that he would be voting no, and yesterday one of his colleagues said he will not be the only one, adding: “I don’t know a single senator who will vote yes, and hardly any TDs who will either.”
Another TD said the canvassing will be left mainly to the local councillors.
But Richard Bruton, who is leading the Fine Gael campaign for a Yes vote, said some opposition had been expected from its parliamentary party ranks.
“We have known from the outset that political reform is difficult. That’s why any change in politics has always been postponed in the past,” he told the Irish Examiner.
“But we believe that politics must demonstrate to ordinary people that it’s willing to change.
“There are diverse opinions on this, right across the parties, but this is a decision for citizens to make.”
The jobs minister said the decision to keep or scrap the upper house was not up to the parliamentary party, but the citizens themselves.
“There will be diverse opinions in all parties but I believe this is the right course of action. It’s something we pledged during the general election that we would proceed with, it’s part of a wide range of political reforms that we are making and I think the case is compelling for change.”
Almost half-a-million leaflets on the Seanad abolition had been requested, he said. But one TD said they were finding it hard to stand behind the information given in the leaflets, particularly when there were question marks over the €20m savings that would be achieved.
Mr Kenny said TDs and senators had already voted in the Oireachtas for the legislation to hold a referendum on Seanad abolition, and its future is now “in the hands of the people”.
“We want the referendum to be carried and be carried strongly. All our electoral teams will be asked to contribute to this,”
“It is a matter for the people and we will continue to deliver the message to them right up to the close of polls.”
Asked why he would not take up a challenge to debate the issue with the Fianna Fáil leader, Michael Martin, the Taoiseach said: “He can debate this matter with me in the Dáil at any time — it is the most public forum in the land and belongs to the people and that is where it should be debated.
“Micheál Martin, as the leader of Fianna Fáil, is no position to lead a no campaign in this case.
“It was very clear prior to the last election that he did not want the Seanad to continue in this democracy and for opportunistic reasons, he changed his tune.”