THE Government was given a possible taste of things to come when it was defeated in a Seanad vote last night.
The Coalition suffered a rare defeat in the Upper House – by 27 votes to 23 – on a bill from Senator Feargal Quinn on upward-only rent reviews.
It means the bill will now be sent to the Dail, although it is likely to be defeated there.
It is understood the vote was the first time the Government lost a vote during this Seanad, although Cathoirleach Paddy Burke had to use his casting vote on other occasions.
A number of Labour senators, including John Whelan, John Kelly, Denis Landy and Jimmy Harte, were missing for the vote and a majority of Independent senators, including the Taoiseach's nominees, voted against the Government.
Government senators have already warned they could vote against the Coalition if the Seanad is abolished in this week's referendum.
Fianna Fail leader Darragh O'Brien said the Government had promised to take action on upward-only rent reviews but had yet to do so.
He said Mr Quinn's bill, which will now go to committee stage in the Seanad, will force the Coalition to help businesses. It came after Taoiseach Enda Kenny again warned there would be no reform of the Seanad if voters reject his bid to abolish the Upper House this Friday.
"The Seanad is an ineffective, powerless body," Mr Kenny said. "It costs €20m a year. It is undemocratic. It is minority representative. It is not possible to reform this body."
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said abolishing the Seanad would lead to true political reform.
"It is a decision for the people to make and whatever decision the people make, that is decisive," Mr Gilmore said.
Meanwhile, former attorney general John Rogers said abolishing the Seanad would make it harder for minority views to be heard. He also said it would make achieving a united Ireland more difficult.
"If we have an ambition to create a united Ireland, we should be seeking to maintain institutions which will accommodate minority," he said.
"In my view the abolition of the Seanad represents a sort of concretisation of the 26-county state."
And the Referendum Commission said yesterday the Seanad may cost more than €20m, if indirect costs were taken into account.