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Wednesday 24 September 2014

Axing Seanad is a 'grubby power grab' – historian

Fiach Kelly

Published 30/07/2013 | 05:00

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THE abolition of the Seanad is a "grubby power grab" by a Government that already keeps major economic decision-making within a powerful inner circle, historian Diarmaid Ferriter has claimed.

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In strident criticisms of the Coalition, Prof Ferriter also said the Economic Management Council (EMC) – the powerful four-member committee that decides all major economic decisions – showed "centralisation and unaccountable elites still dominate" even more than ever.

His comments come after Emily O'Reilly, who will soon leave her Ombudsman post to become EU Ombudsman, criticised the Dail for not taking itself seriously, saying it spends its time "ducking and diving".

They also come ahead of the Seanad referendum in October.

The EMC's membership comprises Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin, and it is also served by senior civil servants and government advisers.

Mr Ferriter, Professor of Modern Irish History at University College Dublin, also says the Coalition's claim that the 2011 General Election delivered a "democratic revolution" has meant little in reality.

"Centralisation and unaccountable elites still dominate, if anything more than they did in the past; even the Cabinet as an entity now plays second fiddle to the Economic Management Council," he said. He made the claims at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal.

He said Mr Kenny's decision not to consider reforming the Seanad, "but instead opt for its abolition or retention as an unreformed assembly is a dangerous power grab that, if successful, will inevitably further copper-fasten the power of a tiny elite".

He added that handing "absolute power to a dysfunctional Dail", which is a "servant" of the Cabinet, senior civil servants and the EMC, "beggars belief". Prof Ferriter is a member of the Democracy Now group that is campaigning to save the Upper House.

Irish Independent

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