Irish News

Friday 25 July 2014

Poll shows increase in support for abolishing Seanad

Daniel McConnell

Published 01/09/2013|04:00

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PUBLIC support for abolishing the Seanad has increased in the wake of the "meaningless" recall of the Upper House two weeks ago.

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According to the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown nationwide opinion poll, 39 per cent of those polled now support doing away with the Seanad – up two points since our last poll in August.

Those in favour of reforming the Seanad remain unchanged at 33 per cent, while 7 per cent would like to see the Seanad kept in its current form. Combined, these two groups have a one-point lead over the abolitionists.

Full poll details and analysis, page 28 & 29

It is also clear that the battle for the Seanad is one between rich and poor, and between urban and rural.

The gain for the abolition comes as a new group, which shares the same aim, is to be launched tomorrow.

Calling itself One House, the group – formed by author and political academic Kevin Rafter – is supporting the campaign to do away with the "elitist and redundant" Seanad. It aims to combat the Democracy Matters group led by former Tanaiste Michael McDowell.

Other names confirmed to be involved with One House are Labour councillor and barrister Richard Humphries, former Labour deputy leader Liz McManus, DCU lecturer Eoin O'Malley, former Labour minister Mervin Taylor and Irish Independent columnists Martina Devlin and Eamon Delaney.

Today's poll is significant as it represents the first increase in support for abolishing the Seanad since polling began, and will come as some relief to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He has placed a considerable amount of personal political capital in bringing forward the referendum to abolish the much-criticised Upper House.

But amid the controversial one-day recall of the Seanad to discuss the matter of organ donation – largely dismissed as a meaningless Fianna Fail publicity stunt – it seems the more the public see of the Seanad, the less they like.

Given its often elitist image, it is unsurprising that those most in favour of abolition are those over the age of 55, members of the farming community and those living in rural Connaught and Ulster.

What is clear from the poll is that the number of people who are undecided is falling, and those who have made up their mind have thrown their weight behind getting rid of the Seanad.

Again, it is not surprising that those most in favour of reforming the Seanad are those higher educated professional urbanites, who are clearly uneasy about doing away with the safeguard, but who argue that it must be given more power.

Mr Kenny and Fine Gael will want this trend to continue if they are to avoid an embarrassing defeat on Friday, October 4, the day the country goes to the polls.

At this mid-way stage of the lifetime of the Government, the electorate has a tendency to use referenda to punish governments.

If the perception remains that the Government has forced an unwanted referendum upon them, the electorate could use October 4 as a very public protest vote.

Given the political and personal capital invested in this proposal by the Government, the potential for the electorate to deliver a bloody nose to the administration is considerable.

It is also interesting to see that Fine Gael supporters are pretty much evenly split on the issue – with 44 per cent of those polled favouring abolition, versus 41 per cent favouring reform – showing clearly that victory for either side is not assured.

Sunday Independent

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