Labour issues warning over Seanad referendum

The Labour Party warned today a referendum on abolishing the Seanad cannot be held on the same day as an election.

Labour issues warning over Seanad referendum

The Labour Party warned today a referendum on abolishing the Seanad cannot be held on the same day as an election.

The Government is considering plans for the massive reform which could be put to the public in the spring.

But a Labour spokesman it would not be feasible to hold such a major poll while party political issues were also being debated.

“There are 60 separate references to the Seanad in the Constitution and all of them would have to be removed,” a Labour spokesman said.

“It is quite a complex thing. This is not a simple one-line amendment. It’s our view that the Government is flying a kite on this one.”

Tony Killeen, Defence Minister, said yesterday that the future of the Seanad is to be discussed at the first Cabinet meeting of the new year.

There is speculation that such major political reform could further delay plans for a general election, expected in March.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny revealed in 2009 his intention to abolish the Seanad and cut the number of TDs by 20 if put in power.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, a former Senator, accused the Government of lagging behind public opinion.

“It is now clearer than ever that we need root and branch political reform, aimed at producing a genuinely open and accountable form of government, which ends the notion of political elites and empowers Irish citizens,” the Donegal South West TD said.

“I am on record for some time now as stating that the Seanad, as it is presently constituted, is elitist as well as a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money.

“The current Seanad is an affront to democracy, giving votes to people based on their educational attainment, giving multiple votes to members of local authorities and ensuring a Government majority through 11 Taoiseach’s nominees.”

Sinn Féin called for wider electoral reform dropping the voting age to 16, voting rights for Irish citizens living abroad, weekend elections, a time limit for the holding of elections and the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission.

Mr Doherty added: “Reports that the present Government, in its dying days, is considering a referendum on the issue, is laughable. They have had plenty of opportunity to deal with this matter and have failed to do so.”

Labour is to publish a policy document on Thursday on political and institutional reform.

The 140 proposals in the 50-page document were finalised after several months examining other systems and also call for ministers to be held more accountable in the Dáil.

The plan does not include reform of the current Whip system.

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