Tuesday 20 March 2018

Gilmore won't punish TDs, senators who defy party line

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has ruled out disciplinary action against the Labour TDs and senators who are canvassing to save the Seanad in defiance of the official party position.

The news came as both he and deputy Labour Party leader and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton put on a united front at the launch of Labour's Seanad abolition referendum campaign, after reports of political tension between them.

Mr Gilmore said that even though the party's official position was in favour of abolishing the Seanad, he was not going to take action against those campaigning to save it.

"This is something we've had before. We've had European referendums where people had a position different to the official party position," he said.

But in a sign of the weak support within Labour for Seanad abolition, just three backbench TDs – Eamonn Maloney, Kevin Humphreys and Aodhan O Riordain – turned up to the party's campaign launch.

Labour TDs Joanna Tuffy and Michael McCarthy are, meanwhile, going to campaign for the No side, along with several Labour senators.

Mr Gilmore said that other countries had second houses because of their geographical size, such as with the USA, to represent a distinct group, or because of historical reasons such as the House of Lords in England.

"In a small, modern country like ours, we don't need two chambers. Instead, a reformed Dail can serve the public interest, and effectively uphold our democracy," he said.

Ms Burton said she also believed that a single chamber was the most effective system for a country of Ireland's size. She said countries that were much admired here such as Denmark and Sweden had gotten rid of their second chambers.

"I have to say, neither is the worse for it," she said.

Meanwhile, former Fianna Fail minister Mary O'Rourke, who is part of the Democracy Matters group, led a canvass in Athlone in support of a No vote in the referendum on October 4.

Ms O'Rourke said that her group supported reforming the Seanad to allow every citizen to vote in Seanad elections.

Irish Independent

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