EUROPEAN Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn has intervened in domestic politics to advocate a No vote in the referendum on scrapping the Seanad – putting her in direct opposition with the Government.
While commissioners are allowed to comment on domestic politics – but not party politics – it is unusual for them to do so, especially Irish commissioners. But when it came to abolishing the Seanad, she said she will take "great pleasure" in voting No when the referendum takes place, which is expected to be October.
The comments by Ms Geoghegan-Quinn (inset) put her in direct opposition to the Coalition, since she is urging people to reject the Government's bid to abolish the Seanad.
They are also likely to be seized on by those campaigning for a No vote.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn was addressing the Upper Chamber on her priorities as Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science as party of Europe Week. But her Seanad comments were in response to a direct question from Independent senator Katherine Zappone, who is a member of a group campaigning to save and reform the Upper House.
Ms Zappone asked: "Noting that she served in the Oireachtas for 22 years, does she believe the Seanad should be abolished?"
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, a former justice minister, replied: "If senators want a direct answer, therefore, yes, I believe the Seanad should remain and I will have great pleasure in coming home, whenever the referendum takes place, to vote No to the abolition of the Seanad."
She said "checks and balances are needed", adding: "We have seen this in respect of the economic crisis." She added: "I learned more during the discussion in this Chamber about the law and how it works than I could ever have learned in the Dail.
"There was a possibility to tease out the legislation.
"There were giants here . . . such as Ken Whitaker and Alexis FitzGerald Snr, who knew the law and could talk about the practical implications of what we were suggesting."
"We had many a tussle in this chamber and many great robust debates. Very many people kindly mentioned what happened in 1993 and 1994, concerning the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Again, that was a debate that could take place in a real calm atmosphere."