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Senators should put public interest first


THE declared intention of some of the senators contacted for your survey yesterday to oppose any referendum to abolish the Upper House came as no surprise.

Dare one hope that when they reflect on it -- statesmen and women that they are -- they will see the big picture and maybe change their minds in the public interest.

The Seanad, after all, was set up by de Valera in the mid-1930s on clearly defined vocational principles in deference, it has to be said, to the mood of the time.

Is it stretching it a bit therefore, to expect members to be conscious of some sort of political vocation and commitment to public service that led them there in the first place?

They will be mindful that, although 90pc of them were never directly elected by the people, public service is still the business they are in.

De Valera, in fashioning the Seanad the way he did, never intended it to have an "electoral" system that would give it any credibility or any power other that delaying things a little bit if members were ever cheeky enough to do so.

In spite of several reports on possible reform over the years, no government has had the courage to implement the proposals nor, as your editorial suggests, is any government likely to do so. The case for abolition is a strong one. Other ways can be found to perform that much-needed check and watchdog role supposedly intended for the Seanad.

Any move to hold a referendum on General Election day would presumably be designed not just to save the taxpayer the cost of running a second chamber but also the cost and distraction of putting the same proposal to the people at another time.

If the Government brings forward legislation for the holding of a referendum is it too much to hope that a majority of senators will not oppose it?

Turkeys voting for Christmas? A big ask, but not an unreasonable one.

P J McDonagh

Dublin 6

Irish Independent