Sunday 18 February 2018

It's red faces all round as Cork East says 'NO'


IT WAS red faces all round for the four sitting TDs in the Cork East constituency as the voters rejected abolishing the Seanad by 51% to 48%.

IT WAS red faces all round for the four sitting TDs in the Cork East constituency as the voters rejected abolishing the Seanad by 51% to 48%.

The three government TDs - junior minister Sean Sherlock (Lab) Tom Barry (FG) and David Stanton (FG) - were joined in an unlikely alliance by Sinn Fein's Sandra McLellan in seeking the axe for the upper house.

Ironically, however, it was Fine Gael's (equally unlikely) rebel Senator Paul Bradford, a supporter of An Seanad, who prevailed in the referendum.

In the wake of the reverse, the Dail speakers were this week somewhat muted.

Mallow based Sean Sherlock said the government needed to consider its options with a view to reforming the Seanad.

"At this juncture it is important to reflect the wishes of the people. They have told us to reform and that is the direction in which we must move," he said.

Sinn Fein's Sandra McLellan urged the government to "move swiftly" to reform not just the Seanad but 'the entire Irish political spectrum'.

"It is clear from the low turn-out from the referendum that there is a high degree of distrust and apathy towards the political system. That is a cause for concern for us all," said SF's McLellan.

"The government now needs to take the message the people has sent them and begin the process of meaningful political reform."

Deputy David Stanton admitted that one of his major concerns was the low turn-out for the referendum and the general lack of engagement - "but the people have spoken and you must accept their will, they are sovereign," he said.

Asked if he was personally disappointed at the result Deputy Stanton said he preferred not to dwell on the result, instead saying the debate must now move onto reform, not only of the Seanad but also of the Dail and local government.

Asked about the Taoiseach's failure to enter a public debate in the lead up to polling, Deputy Stanton said it was impossible to say if it make a significant contribution to the final outcome.

"Certainly he can be a very persuasive orator. I do think that looking forward to possible future referenda, the Taoiseach of the day should be as public as possible," he said.

Asked the same question, Deputy Tom Barry said he personally would have taken up the gauntlet of a public debate on the issue.

"That said, had the vote swung just a few per cent in the other direction. The Taoiseach's decision would have been generally regarded as a good one. He has admitted getting walloped, and if this make him take more notice of his TDs on the ground and not his political advisors, that will be a good thing," he said.

Not personally disappointed at the result, Deputy Barry said he had written to the Taoiseach a number of months ago asking if the Seanad referendum could have been delayed until the country was in the black.

"I'm not convinced that a referendum at a time like this is a good thing as people tend to vote on political rather than constitutional issues," said Deputy Barry.

"Has this been a slap in the face for Fine Gael? I suppose when a party states a certain line and the vote goes against that, it is a defeat. But I would not see it as a huge problem.

"However, if lessons have not been learned then the people will quite rightly punish us for that in the future," he added.


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