| 11°C Dublin

John Drennan: Seanad 'is being shut by stealth'

The government is obstructing attempts by the Seanad to conduct serious legislative business as part of a campaign of "shutting down the Seanad by stealth" the Fianna Fail Seanad leader Darragh O'Brien has claimed.

The allegation comes in the wake of a series of rows where what has been seen as "deliberate snubs'' by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and government ministers has reduced relations between the Government and all parties in the Seanad to breaking point.

Relations have not been enhanced by ferocious exchanges between an increasingly independent House and querulous ministers such as Alan Shatter.

In the wake of a separate row, another senior minister is alleged to have told a group of senators: "That is the last time I am going into this f**king place."

Though the Government's enthusiasm for the abolition of the second chamber has visibly cooled, senators across all the parties claimed the administration has embarked on a policy of "casual disrespect''.

Ironically, some of the angriest senators on the government benches include "those personally picked by the Taoiseach".

Such is the level of anger amongst the unloved senators they have compiled a hit-list of government figures who view the Seanad with particular disdain.

These include the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste and Health Minister James Reilly.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr O'Brien noted that "some ministers such as Brian Hayes and Simon Coveney are very good, others are next to impossible and get very upset if we delay their busy schedule".

The formidable Fianna Fail senator Mary White slammed Enda Kenny over "his failure to visit the Seanad even once" and told the Taoiseach "if he wants to abolish the Seanad he should have the courtesy to at least visit it once".

Mr O'Brien also criticised a "sudden" reduction in the number of Seanad sitting days, saying it is almost as though the Government is shutting down the Seanad by stealth.

The mood was summarised by Labour senator John Kelly, who noted of a recent appearance by John Perry, the Fine Gael junior minister, that "We would nearly have been better having an empty seat there than John Perry. It would not have made any difference."

Sunday Independent