Belfast Telegraph

Kenny anxious for Seanad change

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he is anxious to see the Seanad become an effective watchdog to hold the Government to account.

Still reeling from what he called a "wallop" in his failed referendum to abolish the upper house, the Taoiseach pledged to pore over past reports on reform.

"We have to deal now with the question of how do you make the Seanad effective in the process of political change that I'm anxious to see in the interest of accountability and transparency for the people and for the capacity of the Dail, to hold the executive, which is the Government, to account," Mr Kenny said.

Despite claiming just two days before the public vote that it would not be possible to reform the second chamber, the Taoiseach said he would now have to make changes.

He said while the Seanad has its constraints within the Constitution, the question now was how to make changes within those remits to make it a more effective body.

Mr Kenny said different reports and proposals throughout the years on how to reform the Seanad had caused "great confusion and dissent" among senators and governments, which meant nothing was ever done about it.

"The question is how best do you take all of the proposals, issues and whatever else that have been set out in all of the reports, which were never acted upon, and make the Seanad a more effective body than it is," he added.

"And I will look at that."

One of the biggest bones of contention regarding the Seanad in its current form is the fact the general public has little to no say in the election process.

The Constitution also states that senators have no final say over new laws passed in the Oireachtas.

While they do have the power to delay legislation by up to 90 days, the last time the Seanad used these powers was in 1964.

The Taoiseach would not rule out referring the issue to the Constitutional Convention, which could result in another referendum to decide the fate of the Seanad.

However, some reform could be made without having to change the Constitution.

Meanwhile, Mr Kenny rejected suggestions that his refusal to debate the referendum with Fianna Fail leader and No campaigner Micheal Martin had contributed to his defeat.

He said such a public showdown would have resulted in a "shouting match" with no one getting their points about the Seanad across.

"If I debated the issue, and there was no leader of the No campaign because there were several, people would have said, 'Well you lost, you didn't make the argument, it turned into a shouting match'," Mr Kenny said.

"Whether it would have any impact on the result of the referendum is now quite immaterial."

Almost 52% of the public voted to keep the Seanad.

The No side emerged victorious with a margin of just 42,500 votes.

Following the official declaration of the result, the Taoiseach said he was "personally disappointed", but insisted he would accept and respect the outcome.


From Belfast Telegraph