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Sunday 18 February 2018

Labour revolt at plan to replace Seanad with 'Enda's buddies'

JOHN DRENNAN Political Editor

Enda Kenny's plans to replace the Seanad with a committee appointed by the Taoiseach to scrutinise legislation have been dealt a sharp blow by a full-on Labour parliamentary party rebellion against the proposal.

Last week, in a series of targeted leaks, it was revealed that the Taoiseach is planning to set up the high-powered committee of experts to specifically scrutinise legislation after the Seanad is scrapped.

The internal think-tank was described as a "mini-Seanad with outside experts" whose members would be appointed by Mr Kenny.

A united revolt of Labour TDs and senators took place against what was scathingly dismissed as "Enda's bloody stupid idea'' at last week's parliamentary party meeting.

The committee, as proposed, would be part of the Houses of the Oireachtas, but would have its own designated staff, separate to the rest of the committees.

Significantly, the rebellion was led by the Labour Party whip Emmet Stagg.

The hard-line Gilmore loyalist told Labour TDs that the proposals "represented the best argument yet for keeping the Seanad" and warned "even if the Taoiseach withdraws his proposal completely, this proposal will be raised again and again".

It is believed a variant of this proposal was raised with Mr Stagg in writing by Fine Gael some months ago. The Labour whip, however, is believed to have issued a withering response, dismissing the idea as a "nonsense proposal".

Another source from within the meeting told the Sunday Independent that "you can say with great safety that the party is united on opposing this proposal. Discontent is putting it too mildly; there was an explosive reaction, Enda will get a bloody nose if he tries to impose this on us".

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Labour senator John Kelly slammed a "strange sort of democratic revolution where an independent, constitutionally protected house will be replaced by a gathering of Enda's buddies".

Within the meeting, other Labour senators and TDs such as John Gilroy and Michael McNamara were equally cutting about "Enda's bloody stupid idea" to replace "a Seanad, whose main problem is a lack of democratic accountability, with a committee appointed privately by the Taoiseach".

It is believed the minds of the attendees were also concentrated by the warning from Labour Senator John Gilroy that "after the next election, there might be a lot of Labour backbenchers who would be glad of its existence".

The heads of the referendum bill to abolish the Seanad are expected to be unveiled next week.

However, in a further signal that it may have a troubled passage, Mr Stagg said: "I will support the putting of the proposal to the people, but I won't be supporting its abolition."

In an important clarification, he added: "This is consistent with Labour policy, our position is that we will put it to the people but TDs and senators have not been told to support or oppose it."

Sunday Independent

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