MINISTER for Finance Michael Noonan has urged people to vote Yes to abolish the Seanad in the upcoming referendum, highlighting the fact that it costs a €100 million to run across a five year Dáil term, writes Anne Sheridan.
Speaking at a public meeting on the issue in the Greenhills hotel in Limerick, Minister Noonan said that the abolition of the Seanad is not a stand-alone measure, but a major element of a wider reform package to reduce the cost of running the country”.
He said its electoral system is “elitist and undemocratic”, in that politicians elect or appoint all but six of its members, and the six university Senators are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland and Trinity College to the exclusion of other graduates, such as those from the UL or DCU.
The Limerick minister said the Seanad’s main power of oversight is to delay but not veto legislation by referring it back to the Dáil, and this has only happened twice, most recently in 1964.
“The biggest problem of the Seanad however, is that it is not what was envisaged by those who framed the Constitution. If the Seanad is abolished further reform of the Dáil is necessary so that it will carry out the functions which the Seanad has failed to carry out.
However, Fianna Fáil’s director of elections, deputy Niall Collins, has criticised what he has described as the Taoiseach’s “carrot and stick” approach to political reform.
“The Seanad does not need to be abolished for the Dáil committees to be reformed - the proposition that it does is a threat and a lie. Unfortunately we will have no opportunity to challenge the Taoiseach directly on his strategy as he continues to refuse to meet his opponents in open honest debate,” said Deputy Collins.