Saturday 18 January 2020

Lise Hand: The people have spoken - and said 'No thanks, Enda'

Lise Hand

"SOMETIMES in politics you get a bit of a wallop in the electoral process". And no matter how the Taoiseach tried to put on a brave face, he must've been hurting.


The people had spoken, and they had said "ah no, thanks all the same, Enda". The people had made monkeys of the opinion polls predicting a comfortable win for the Yes campaign. The people had, against widespread predictions, voted to keep 60 senators in their jobs.

The Taoiseach faced the music - and the media - in the Upper Yard of Dublin Castle. There was much talk about the need to "reflect" on the unexpected result of the referendum to abolish or retain the Seanad - a sentiment echoed a short while earlier by Fine Gael's Director of Elections, Richard Bruton. "Clearly we need to reflect on this," he said.

By contrast, there was a decidedly carnival atmosphere around the lawn outside The Coach House in Dublin Castle earlier this afternoon. Laughter rose from a sizeable but decidedly disparate bunch of senators, TDs and civilians who were milling about on the grass, congratulating each other.

Six hours after the votes poured out of the ballot-boxes in count-centres all around the country, and neither the members of  Democracy Matters and Fianna Fáil could quite take in that the No vote had carried the day.

"I think the Sinn Fein/Fine Gael campaign ran out of steam and I think it was based on spin and not on substance," reckoned Michael Martin, who was basking in the unusual glow of being on the right end of a vote.

"Just look at the day - the sun is shining on democracy, and matter matters," beamed Senator Feargal Quinn - a little ray of sunshine himself. Behind him stood a right motley crew of campaigners, all openly delighted with the result. Particularly cock-a-hoop was Michael McDowell who swiftly reminded all present that when Enda originally announced his plan to abolish the Seanad, "he said it was a personal leadership initiative".

Uh-oh. It sounds as if the blame-game is already underway. The Taoiseach might have a few more wallops heading his way before the dust settles on this result.


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