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Saturday 16 December 2017

McDowell: Taoiseach must reform Seanad if it's kept

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FORMER Tanaiste Michael McDowell has challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny to promise he will reform the Seanad, if voters reject the bid to abolish it.

Mr McDowell said voters are entitled to know "from anyone who pretends to be a political reformer" the Upper House will be reformed if they vote to keep it.

Speaking at the MacGill summer school, he also dismissed the Government's claim that scrapping the Seanad will save €100m, and said it only costs €1.60, the price of a carton of milk.

And the former justice minister also called for a number of political reforms to strengthen the Dail, such as a secret ballot to elect the Ceann Comhairle.

Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin also called for an Independent Ceann Comhairle, and said his party will propose another referendum to reform the Seanad if voters reject the Government's attempts to abolish it.

Mr McDowell also said legal fees trebled in the period between 1999 and 2007 when he left the legal profession to serve in Government. And he claimed it is a "myth" that his former party, the Progressive Democrats, were the party of light-touch financial regulation. He said he had "never stood" for light-touch regulation and said his party was in favour of competition but was unfairly stereotyped.

"I remember Mary Harney lobbying very, very hard to have the super rich pay minimun rates of tax," the former Dublin South-East TD added.

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