Sunday 17 December 2017

First All-Ireland Budget Day passes - Senators claim to be seen as 'second class citizens'

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

All-Ireland tickets were back on the Seanad agenda today, amid claims senators are seen as “second class citizens” in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

One of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s chief supporters Paddy Burke said the GAA’s decision to give TDs tickets for the All Ireland but not senators “showed clearly how the Seanad is viewed by certain organisations”.

Senator Paddy Burke
Senator Paddy Burke

And Fine Gael Senator Gabrielle McFadden complained that senators were not afforded the “luxury” of being able to invite visitors to Leinster House to observe Tuesday’s Budget – unlike TDs.

“That is ridiculous in the Houses of the Oireachtas as all Members are equal. One House is as important as the other. 

“The budget is for everyone, not just for Deputies.  The allocation of visitor tickets was unfair and not right,” she said.

Mr Burke said his Mayo colleague Michelle Mulherin, who sparked the controversy after accusing Croke Park of discrimination against Senators for not giving her tickets to the All Ireland Football final, would not thank him for raising the issue again.

Dáil deputies are provided with tickets for big games by the GAA if their county is playing.

“The Senator highlighted publicly, as an instance of discrimination against Members of this House, a letter she received from the GAA indicating that Deputies would be offered tickets for sale for the all-Ireland football final but Senators would not. 

Michelle Mulherin. Photo: Tom Burke
Michelle Mulherin. Photo: Tom Burke

“I got the same letter and I fully subscribe to the Senator's view on the matter. 

“I understand any Member of this House from a participating county who sent in a letter and cheque received the same response,” he said.

Mr Burke told the Upper House that the GAA then “proceeded to roll out” its former president and current Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly who said a line had to be drawn somewhere.

“It certainly drew a clear line between Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann in this case,” he said.

“This particular incident affords us an opportunity to take stock of how we are viewed by the GAA and the media. 

“In advance of the biggest day in the Gaelic football calendar, the GAA drew a clear line between the Dáil and the Seanad.”

Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden
Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden

He added that the chairman of the Seanad was also discriminated against because he was not invited to be seated in the Ard Chomhairle on All Ireland day, along with all the Ministers, Ministers of State, Garda and Army officials. 

“All the other arms of State are represented there on these occasions but not the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann,” he said.

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