Kenny vows to back abolition of Seanad in referendum next year
Published 26/12/2012 | 05:00
TAOISEACH Enda Kenny says he will be actively campaigning to have the Seanad scrapped with a referendum on the matter to be held next autumn.
But Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore is going to defy Mr Kenny's bid to abolish the Seanad – by allowing Labour TDs to campaign against the reform
Multiple votes may be held on the same day as the Government seeks to put a number of proposals coming back from the Constitutional think tank to the people.
Mr Kenny had to postpone his previous commitment to hold the referendum this year, due to the votes on the EU fiscal treaty and children's rights.
But the Taoiseach is adamant the Seanad referendum will be held in the second half of next year.
And he said that he definitely intends to take a hands-on role in campaigning for its abolition.
"Of course I do. 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.
"They'll have that opportunity in the autumn of next year," he added.
Mr Kenny himself came up with the idea to have a referendum to abolish the Seanad – much to the anger of his senators, who were given no advance warning.
The commitment to hold a referendum on the future of the Upper House is a key policy goal for Fine Gael and is in the Programme for Government that was agreed with Labour.
But senior Labour Party figures sources say nobody in Labour is going to go out on limb over it.
Fine Gael TDs and senators will be forced to back the abolition of the Seanad by the party hierarchy. But the Labour leadership will tell TDs and senators they are free to oppose its abolition if they wish.
But Labour won't be breaching Coalition's policy because the Government's commitment is just to hold the referendum, whereas Fine Gael party policy goes further and actually seeks to abolish the Seanad.
The Constitutional Convention is beginning its deliberations in the New Year, looking at areas of change – starting off with reducing the presidential term from seven years to five and running it along with the Local and European elections, and also reducing the voting age from 18 to 17.
Mr Kenny described the Seanad vote as "certain referendum, which is a central plank of our political reform programme".
He said he will await the responses from the Constitutional Convention and has committed to giving it an answer on its proposals within four months.
If the Government agrees to hold a referendum on whatever proposal is pitched, it will give a timeline for when it might be held.
Mr Kenny confirmed his preference would be to hold multiple referendums on political reform the same day as the Seanad vote.
"Let's see what the Constitutional Convention throws up. They are starting with two relatively simple issues that you can make a decision on.
"That is more actually in seeing that the convention works effectively, than the issues that they are actually deliberating on.
"As I said to chairman Tom Arnold, he and his convention have the right to choose whatever they want to discuss after that."