Article by Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill ahead of Friday’s Seanad Referendum



It is highly regrettable that in advance of a crucial budget, the Government and Sinn Féin are cynically trying to persuade people that Seanad abolition will somehow cure all of our economic ills.


What this Country really needs is a proper debate on the type of policies necessary to generate jobs and stimulate investment. Voters need to be clear that abolishing Seanad Éireann will compound Ireland’s economic difficulties, not resolve them.


When the Government claims that the Seanad provides no real check on it, voters need to remember that the Government is not a disinterested Party. Currently, it has to provide answers in the Seanad to adjournment debates on local issues, positions and replies in more general policy debates, and, above all steer and defend legislation through the Seanad Chamber. The Government would rather be relieved of this, than face democratic scrutiny and be held to account.


The truth is that the Seanad is not a free standing structure that can be torn down without any impact on other institutions. It is in fact a Pillar, and alongside other Pillars, it holds up the Irish System of Government. Some States, most notably some Scandanavian Countries and New Zealand have undertaken to strengthen Local Government or to create a strong and re-designed single chamber before they tear down their Upper House.


In Ireland, FG, Labour and Sinn Féin have moved in the demolition equipment on a load bearing structure before we have even drawn up the plans for what will go in its place. This in turn vandalises our Constitution. When our Constitution was drafted and enacted, it was the first time in 800 years that the Irish People established a set of principles and ideas to guide our Country. The Constitution has served us well – why dismantle it now!


The purpose of a bicameral (two houses) Parliament is to act as a check on the Power of the Lower Chamber. Second Chambers were famously described by George Washington as providing for a cooling period during which further deliberation on a piece of legislation can take place. By allowing for additional deliberation by a different group of individuals, enhances the quality of legislation.


A reformed Seanad would fill the Gap admirably. It would render the Architecture of Irish Government Practical, Aesthetically pleasing, and highly innovative. The composition of a reformed Seanad would make Ireland a Leader and not a follower in Governmental Reform on the International Stage. However, none of this can be achieved if the People Signal their acceptance of a Single Chamber Government.



If a Yes Vote is carried on Friday then the issue will forever be put to rest, a National Debate will end, and a great opportunity will be lost.  Retention is the first step to reform and the construction of a better and more inclusive legislature for all.







7 Reasons to Vote to NO to Seanad Abolition

  1. Centralisation      of Power – With a 2/3 Majority, the Dáil is already a      puppet of the coalition. In contrast, the Government has a very small      minority in the Seanad which means it must take on-board views of      Senators.


  1. Fewer Checks on      Power of Government – A Government      with a strong Dáil Majority will be able to push legislation through very      quickly. Requiring legislation to be considered by a Second Chamber, with      the possibility that it can be delayed if a majority of Senators have      problems with it, is an important limitation on the power of the Taoiseach      and his Government. But they will be less likely to consider changes to      legislation if they know they can ram it through the Dáil using the Party      Whip, with no second chamber to consider.


  1. Less Room for      Minority Voices & Conscience Voting


  1. Removal of      Democratic Forum  – To Cross question Ministers &      Government on Local (Adjournment) and Policy issues (Debates).


  1. Removing      Constitutional Safeguards – The Seanad’s      role in safeguarding democracy such as the removal of the Controller and      Auditor General and Judges and the Impeacement of the President will be      gone forever.  Also the removal of      (Article 47) of the power of a majority of the Seanad and a third of the      Dáil to ask the President to put legislation passed by the Oireachtas to      the people in a Referendum.


  1. Less Scrutiny – Abolishing the Seanad will mean scrapping the Attorney General’s      right of Audience in the Seanad – Under S. O. 56. There is no such right      in the Dáil.


  1. Less Accountable      - Abolition without Dáil reform given the Whip      Systems power over the Dáil, is at best premature, and at worse will      make our Government and Civil Service even less accountable.


Posted: Oct 1, 2013     |     Categories: Uncategorized