FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has dismissed the loss of Chris Andrews to the party as insignificant.
“There was a disciplinary process underway and he did choose to resign,” said Minister Martin on the radio earlier today. “It is up to Chris to join whatever party he wants to.”
Referring to the Twitter controversy that led to Mr Andrews’ departure from the party, Mr Martin said: “The circumstances in terms of how Chris Andrews left our well known – in terms of activities in relation to cyber bullying of members within the party.”
The 49-year-old caused uproar within his former party when it emerged that he had created a phoney Twitter account to criticise Micheal Martin and other Fianna Fail figures.
Mr Andrews was unveiled as the phantom tweeter by Eddy Carroll, the husband of senior party figure Kathryn Byrne. He had sent over 300 tweets which were highly critical of a number of figures within Fianna Fail.
But, speaking on RTE Radio, his former party leader simply answered “No” when asked if Mr Andrews’ departure is a loss to Fianna Fail or its future aims.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has ignored a challenge from Mr Martin to a live TV debate on the abolition of the Seanad.
Mr Martin threw down the gauntlet just minutes before Fine Gael officially launched its campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum on the scrapping of the upper house.
"Deputy Martin will have his opportunity in Leaders' Questions," Mr Kenny said.
The Taoiseach, who described the Seanad as a "powerless, elitist second house", also rejected accusations of attempting to grab more powers for the Government.
"This is not a question of an egotistical power grab, this is about the people," Mr Kenny said.
The public vote on whether the Seanad should be abolished will be held on October 4.
The Taoiseach said the abolition of the Seanad is just one step in the Government's overall plans for political reform.
He said ministers would publish a string of proposed changes to the Dail this week, which are likely to include longer sitting hours, new committees to consider legislation at different stages and wider consultation.
Mr Kenny also dismissed concerns that abolishing the Seanad would mean there would be no one to act as a watchdog to the Government.
"It is the constitutional responsibility of Dail Eireann to hold the Government to account. It is not vested in the Seanad," he said.
The upper house is able to delay legislation but cannot block it, and this power has only been used twice in 75 years.
Fine Gael has insisted that scrapping the Seanad would save the state 20 million euro a year and would result in 33% fewer politicians.
"Do we want politics which is more effective, more comprehensive, less costly, more transparent and more accountable?" Mr Kenny said.
Launching Fianna Fail's campaign for a No vote in the referendum, Mr Martin claimed the abolition of the Seanad would scrap any chance of true political reform.
"If passed, this amendment will deliver no reform to the substance of Irish politics," Mr Martin said.
"In fact, it will make matters worse because it will cement absolute ministerial control over the political system, and it will mark the formal end of any chance to achieving real political reform."