McDowell rubbishes Fine Gael plan to get rid of the Senate
Published 14/03/2010 | 05:00
Former Tanaiste and Justice Minister Michael McDowell has branded Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny's call to abolish the Seanad as a "silly idea" that would place Ireland's autonomy in jeopardy.
Mr McDowell, who left the political arena in 2007 following the loss of his Dail seat, said the abolition of the Seanad would be a "crass error" and he criticised Mr Kenny for launching a thoughtless, "populist" attack on the political establishment.
Speaking on Thursday night, Mr McDowell said: "While the Seanad is in need of major reform, to abolish it would be a crass error. It is a silly little idea and amounts to nothing more than throwing of political shapes for short-term political advancement."
Despite once calling for the Seanad's abolition himself in the 1980s, Mr McDowell said moving to a unicameral parliamentary system would mean that a majority of Dail deputies would then have the powers to remove the President, remove a judge or hand away Ireland's veto on issues like taxation to Brussels.
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"It seems to me there may be a very significant danger in Ireland's present circumstances that public debate on the effectiveness of our democracy will proceed on the basis of glib populism and tabloid superficiality rather than on a carefully considered and measured basis," he added.
In the late 1980s, he was part of a small group which drafted legislation to abolish the Seanad. At the time, Mr McDowell referred to the upper house as a cross between a political convalescent home and creche.
The Seanad also has importance in the provision of checks and balances against the abuse of power by a temporary majority in the Dail, Mr McDowell said.
Mr McDowell, who is married to Prof Niamh Brennan, the recently appointed chairwoman of the troubled Dublin Docklands Development Authority, refused to rule out a return to political life.
He said the body politic should resist humouring the "anti-political lynch mob" in the media, singling out Ger Colleran, editor of the Star, for criticism.
In an interview in today's Sunday Independent, Mr McDowell said our economic crisis was the result of a "massive failure" in regulation.
He also said the country must grasp the basic reality that the recovery would come not in the public sector but in the private sector. "The people want a message of hope which has to be grounded in certain realities: the public sector is not going to lead Ireland back to recovery, it's only a recovery in the private sector."