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Taoiseach rejects Seanad reform call

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is set to quell a mini-rebellion by Fine Gael senators who want the Seanad to be reformed rather than abolished.

Some of his party's senators want to give voters three options in the referendum this year: abolishing the Seanad; reforming it; or keeping it.

However, a government spokesman made it clear that there would only be two choices in the referendum – abolishing the Seanad or keeping it.

"There is no third question, which is to say reform. That will not be posed," he said.

Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell and other political figures are drafting new legislation to give everyone a vote in Seanad elections.

The Government has a slim majority in the Seanad and it would be a major embarrassment if a private Seanad reform bill was passed with FG support.

The government spokesman said that any move from government members to reform the Seanad would "seriously undermine the campaign".

The Government does not have to take on the private members' Seanad reform bill, even if it is passed in the Seanad.

The government spokesman said that the legislation to provide for the referendum would have to be supported by all government backbenchers.

However, the likelihood is that once the campaign begins, Labour will allow some of its TDs and senators to argue against the abolition of the Seanad if they wish.

The Cabinet is due to receive the draft outline of the legislation in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent