THE GOVERNMENT is considering asking voters if they would like to increase the powers of the Dail as part of the referendum to abolish the Seanad, the Irish Independent has learned.
And the Cabinet has decided not to oppose a Seanad reform bill tabled by some Independents when it comes before the upper house amid fears of revolt by Fine Gael and Labour senators.
The bill, backed by Independent senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone, proposes to reform the upper house rather than scrap it and contains measures such as giving everyone a vote in Seanad elections.
Some Coalition senators were threatening to support the reform bill, but the move not to oppose it will allow them back the proposals but keep their party whip.
However, the bill will still be rejected by the Dail, with one Fine Gael source describing it as "mad altogether".
The Government will put a straight question on abolition to the people, and will not propose reforms.
Chief Whip Paul Kehoe told a special meeting of Fine Gael TDs that ministers were working on proposals to reform the Dail alongside an abolition of the Seanad.
He said the possibility of asking the people if they wanted to give more power to the Dail is under consideration.
The meeting was requested by Dublin South-East TD Eoghan Murphy, who has been pushing for Dail reform.