Monday 27 January 2020

Taoiseach will oppose move to save Seanad

Michael Brennan and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny is preparing to shoot down a new bill to save the Seanad.

The bill would give every citizen a vote in Seanad elections for the first time – and would extend this right to people living in the North and Irish people living abroad. It would also reduce the salaries of senators from €65,000 to €49,000 – half of a TD's salary – while requiring that there be an equal number of male and female senators.

But the Irish Independent has learned that Mr Kenny is not going to accept this Seanad reform bill, which has been drawn up by a group that includes former justice minister Michael McDowell and current senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone.

He is going to stick to his policy of ensuring that voters simply have a 'Yes' or 'No' choice on the future of the Seanad in the referendum in the autumn.

It has also emerged that the Government is not going to run its own information campaign in the forthcoming referendum. The information booklet it sent out during the Children's Referendum last year was found to be biased by the Supreme Court.

The Government has now allocated €2.1m to the independent Referendum Commission to run the campaign – and it will be the only body supplying an information booklet.

The new Seanad reform bill proposes to replace the current system where 49 of the 60 senators are chosen by councillors, TDs and some college graduates. The Taoiseach of the day would still be allowed to choose the remaining 11.

Senator Feargal Quinn said he was hopeful of getting the support of Fine Gael senators for the new bill.

"I think we'll be able to convince the Government that it should get through the Seanad," he said.

The Government has a slim majority in the Seanad and it would be a major embarrassment if the private Seanad reform bill was passed. The bill is due to be launched by Mr Quinn, Mr McDowell and others in Dublin tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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