Friday 19 January 2018

Eilis O'Hanlon: Listen to Olivia because 'more silence means less democracy'

O'Leary made a compelling argument against abolition

POWERFUL ADVOCATE: Olivia O'Leary. Photo: Tony Gavin
POWERFUL ADVOCATE: Olivia O'Leary. Photo: Tony Gavin

Eilis O'Hanlon

The turnout looks set to be lower than Holly Willoughby's neckline and the polls suggest that we will in the end vote to abolish the Seanad; but the margins are still within a range that could be turned in the final days of the campaign. In that context, it's hard not to see Olivia O'Leary's powerful defence of the Seanad in her weekly radio essay on RTE's Drivetime as anything other than a seminal moment. There have been other stirring contributions to the debate – most notably from Michael McDowell and Professor John Crown, very different men who have both given masterclasses in debating in recent weeks – but O'Leary's contribution struck a particularly resonant chord.

Perhaps because she has been a part of the national scene for so long, yet still stands outside it, with no axe to grind and no personal stake in the outcome, so it felt as if she was bringing a quiet, measured perspective to the ideological bun fight.

It also helps that she's not a natural rebel. Many of the opponents of Seanad abolition could have been predicted in advance. There's an awkward squad out there who would oppose the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition even if it found a cure for world hunger. O'Leary has never been one of those people.

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