FG figures are forced to defend Kenny in Seanad row
FINE Gael figures have been forced into defending Taoiseach Enda Kenny's stance that the only option open to voters on the Seanad is abolition or retention – and not reform.
It came after the Irish Independent revealed ministers privately admit the Seanad will have to be reformed if voters reject Mr Kenny's efforts to scrap the Upper House.
"The effective position is if people vote this down, there will be reform," a Fine Gael minister said. "If it's left, you would have to reform it."
But senior party figures attempted to put the party back on message, with parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan saying there was no prospect of a "Plan B".
He also said reports of Seanad reform if the referendum was defeated were news to him.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald also said there was no question of reforming the Seanad, adding a reformed Dail would see one effective house of parliament operating with checks and balances.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney also indicated last week a reformed Seanad was a possibility if the referendum was defeated.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton yesterday described the choice in black-and-white terms.
"The issue is do we want more politicians or fewer?" he asked, while insisting the Seanad should be abolished.
Mr Kenny has said there is no option to reform the Seanad, and voters will have a simple choice to abolish it or keep it in its current form.
It comes as European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton became the first minister to publicly state she sees a role for the Seanad if it is retained.
However, the Dublin South-East TD, who is often at odds with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and other senior Fine Gael figures, says she still favours holding the referendum.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin raised the remote possibility another second chamber of parliament could be created even if voters decided to abolish the Seanad.
But he insisted the Upper House should be abolished, as per the Government's proposals.
Mr Howlin – who drafted Labour's pre-election policy of referring the future of the Seanad to the constitutional convention – told RTE's 'The Week in Politics': "If there is an argument for some sort of different second house, then let's have it.
"If there is a compelling case, let's have it."
Kenny's credibility rests on winning vote: John downing, page 25