News Referendum

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Michael McDowell: This is a triumph for the Irish people and democracy

. . . and a defeat for the arrogance of a Taoiseach who wouldn't debate his own initiative, writes Michael McDowell

Michael McDowell

Published 06/10/2013 | 05:00

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JOB DONE: Senators Feargal Quinn, Katherine Zappone, John Crown and TD Micheal Martin

THE result of the Seanad referendum is a triumph for the common sense and good judgement of the Irish people. It is a defeat for cynicism, arrogance and complacency. The people have shown that Ireland is not a State governed by focus-group research and backroom political-party statisticians.

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This result is a watershed in Irish politics. The broad alliance of civic society, opposition politicians and others – ranging from historians to entrepreneurs to student unions – demonstrated that citizenship in a Republic cannot be hijacked by lies and misinformation.

The result does not reflect an urban-rural divide or a divide between socio-economic groups, but rather a concern and a respect for Bunreacht na hEireann and our democracy.

The people have spoken; they want Seanad Eireann to fulfill the function and potential that were envisaged by those who drafted and enacted our Constitution in 1937.

Enda Kenny, who excused his failure to consult even his own political party when he committed it to the abolition of the Seanad, justified that stunt by describing his action as a "personal leadership initiative".

However, when it came to the task of justifying his actions to the Irish people, he was nowhere to be seen.

Now, as Taoiseach, he must demonstrate that he is a democrat and accept the clearly enunciated demand of the Irish people that Seanad Eireann should be retained and reformed.

While one can understand his unwillingness to contemplate reform during the referendum campaign, he has no choice now but to accept the will of the country he leads. Anything less than comprehensive reform of the Seanad would be a betrayal of the Constitution, the people and the democratic process.

There is a blueprint in place. The Quinn/Zappone Bill has reached committee stage in the Seanad.

Without a further referendum, the people can become the electors of the great majority of their senators. A voice can be given to Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland and abroad. Gender equality can be transformed from an aspiration to a reality. The abject failure of the Irish State to engage with the

'The founders of our State and the authors of our Constitution would be proud'

legislative process of the European Union can now be remedied. Ireland's democracy can be deepened and broadened and enriched by the participation of all of her citizens.

It would be remiss of me not to express my deepest gratitude and admiration to the many volunteers who refused to give up their belief in democracy or to be swamped by the big guns of Irish politics with their massive resources. Democracy Matters proved that participation in the democratic life of our country transcends tribal allegiances and differences of ideology, age and outlook.

In particular, the vigorous participation by young volunteers all over Ireland in the No campaign demonstrates that the coming generation is as patriotic as those whose legacy we will be remembering over the coming years.

The founders of our State and the authors of our Constitution would today be as proud as I am to be an Irish democrat.

Sunday Independent

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