Monday 18 December 2017

Senators go on barren hunt for public sympathy

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SENATORS gave further ammunition to their critics yesterday by begging for the second chamber to be kept as a home for "career senators" and struggling politicians.

In their final sitting day, they also made references to Shakespeare as part of their condemnation of the incoming Government's plan to get rid of the Seanad.

Fianna Fail Senator Ann Ormonde actually cited two of the key arguments made for abolishing the Seanad while trying to defend it -- that it is populated by career senators and failed election candidates looking to get back to the Dail.

"What is wrong with having career senators, in addition to using the Seanad as a respite centre for those who stay for a short time and then move on?" she asked.

Ms Ormonde, who has served in the Seanad for 18 years and is seeking re-election, said it would be wrong to abolish the Seanad without real discussion.

But Independent Senator Fergal Quinn criticised the fact that the Seanad would not be meeting again before the elections to it at the end of next month.

"The Constitution provides that a vote will not take place for almost two months, yet it is not planned to meet in the intervening period," he said.

However, former PD senator Fiona O'Malley revealed that the reason for the lack of further Seanad sittings was because members needed to go looking for votes from councillors and TDs around the country.

"Members must try to be re-elected to the Seanad. It is unrealistic to expect the Seanad to continue to sit when they are trying to be re-elected," he said.

Elections

The new Seanad, which will emerge after next month's elections, will sit for another five years -- even if the required referendum to abolish it is passed by the public.

Independent senator Ronan Mullen quoted Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' while criticising the failure of the Seanad to sit during the general election campaign.

He said: "We have allowed our capability and godlike reason to fustiness unused instead of being here and having important debates and restoring people's faith," he said.

But if the Seanad had sat during the campaign, many of its 60 members would have been missing because they were candidates in the general election.

There were 14 senators elected to the Dail in the general election -- nine from Fine Gael, four from Labour and Independent senator Shane Ross.

Outgoing Fianna Fail senator Paschal Mooney criticised the lack of media coverage of the Seanad and said it had been responsible for "setting up the general public" to back its abolition in a referendum.

"The amount of talent that is available in this house, I don't think it should be dismissed so quickly and so easily," he told the Seanad.

There was also confirmation from several older Fianna Fail senators -- including Ms Ormonde, Terry Leyden and Mary White -- that they would run again in the Seanad election next month. This is contrary to the wishes of new party leader Micheal Martin, who wants to get younger senators elected.

Yesterday, the Seanad passed a private members' Bill brought by Independent senator Fergal Quinn, which would force developers to pay sub-contractors by an agreed date -- therefore preventing them from losing out if the developer went bust.

If the Dail had passed the Bill, it would have been the first time in 40 years that a private members' Bill arising in the Seanad had gone into law. But the measure will have to be revived in the next Dail to ensure it can pass into law.

There were also tributes paid to former Fianna Fail senator Willie Farrell, who died in April last year at the age of 81.

Irish Independent

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