Tuesday 24 October 2017

Pressure mounts on FG over Seanad TV debate

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

FINE Gael is under mounting pressure to choose someone to take part in a televised debate on the Seanad referendum.

The party still hasn't decided who it will send to an RTE debate tomorrow night, but Jobs Minister Richard Bruton (pictured) has insisted someone will take part for Fine Gael.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny – who has personally championed the abolition of the Seanad – declined an invitation from RTE's 'Prime Time' after he was challenged to a debate by Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.

However, Mr Bruton didn't say if he will be taking part, and Fine Gael says talks are still ongoing with RTE.

Fianna Fail says Mr Martin will take part in a debate, if Fine Gael puts forward a senior representative, and his participation is not contingent on Mr Kenny.

It comes as the Seanad referendum campaign enters its final few days.

Writing in today's Irish Independent, Mr Kenny says the Government will bring forward further Dail reform following the referendum.

"If you decide to abolish the Seanad, there will be further steps to enhance the legislative process and improve the committee system," he says.

On the issue of the televised debate, his colleague Mr Bruton said the referendum is not a "personality contest".

"This is an issue where the citizens need to make a choice about proposals for constitutional reform," the Dublin North Central TD said.

"There has never been a referendum debate in which the Taoiseach has taken part and that is for very good reason, this isn't a personality contest."

When asked if he would debate Mr Martin, he said he hadn't been asked yet.

Fine Gael is expected to pick someone to represent it in the debate later today, and, even though it is likely to be Mr Bruton, he wouldn't confirm this. Even leading campaigners to scrap the Seanad said all party leaders should debate the future of the Upper House.

Kieran Mulvey, head of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) and member of the One House group, asked why all party leaders weren't debating.

Mr Mulvey said he or One House wouldn't get involved in the argument because it is party political, but added: "It's a constitutional matter. Why aren't they all debating if that was to be the format. I think when it comes to a constitutional matter the position may be different but that's only an observation I would have."

Mr Mulvey also said he was disappointed by the personal attacks during the referendum campaign. "They are regretful, he said. "I don't see Enda Kenny as a dictator."

Irish Independent

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