Thurles Electorate Invited To Oppose Abolition Of Seanad

FiannaFailPictured  (Back Row) Left – Right: Councillor Michael Smith (Jnr), Councillor Jim O’Shea, Councillor Gerard Fogarty, Senator Mark Daly.
Pictured (Front Row seated) Left – Right: Councillor Michael O’Connell, Councillor Marcus Wilson, MEP Brian Crowley. (Photo courtesy G.Willoughby)

Tipperary Fianna Fáil recently held a public meeting in the Anner Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary – its purpose to oppose the abolition of the Seanad. The packed room was addressed by Senator Mark Daly, Dr. Martin Mansergh and Brian Crowley (MEP) raising issues which many of us possibly have given little thought before deciding on marking our card on October 4th next.

Senator Mark Daly, who recently recalled the Seanad to debate Ireland’s organ donation laws, spoke of how the referendum is a cynical power grab and that the message to reduce politicians, undermines politics. He spoke of the irony of when Mary McAleese was running for President that she wasn’t entitled to vote for herself.

800,000 Irish Working Abroad Are Being Refused The Right To Vote In Upcoming Senate Referendum

Senator Daly stated that some 800,000 Irish passport holders currently living abroad also don’t have the right to vote in this Irish referendum. Ireland is one of four countries of the 33 in the Council of Europe who don’t give votes to citizens outside the state. A reformed Seanad could give representation to the people of Northern Ireland and citizens residing abroad, similar to France.

He also stated; “Since the European Communities Act, 1972 Government Ministers are empowered to pass European Union laws into effect in Ireland without debate. Only 2% of laws passed in Ireland are debated. Ministers signed into law 33,000 pages of law compared to 2,000 passed by the Oireachtas. The Seanad should debate EU legislation before Ministers sign it. We must demand real reform for the Seanad.

Senator Daly also feared that there will be a low turnout and urged everyone to get out and vote.

Civil Servants Debate Our Laws.

Former Senator Dr. Martin Mansergh spoke of his experience as Minister of State and how civil servants just tend to be the ones who debate these laws.
Senator Mansergh stated “The referendum is taking place in the background of the tough upcoming budget and the concerns that same brings to families. The ‘savings’ from the abolition which the Government is promising will not be realised until at least 2016. From 2002 to 2007 there were ten Oireachtas members in Tipperary, presently there are eight. If the referendum passes, from 2016 there will only be five. Six Town Councils and a Borough Council are being abolished.”

Senator Mansergh also highlighted the importance of the 11 of the 60 Senators who represent the Agricultural community for Tipperary: “What value do we place on democracy and on representative government? The crass and offensive tone of the Government campaign treats the Seanad and its former members as useless. Historically the first Seanad gave representation to a minority until later Fianna Fáil reformed it. Liam Cosgrave made the defence of the institutions of the state the defining characteristic of Fine Gael. The current Taoiseach waves the Constitution as a bible, while inviting the people to tear pages out of it.”

Addressing the issue of indirect suffrage of the Seanad and being passed off as undemocratic, Mansergh said that the Government is also elected by indirect suffrage. “The message from the Government that Seanad reform is too difficult insinuates that they believe tackling the economic crisis is an easy one. The current Oireachtas is comprised of the Dáil, the Seanad and the President. A two-legged stool wouldn’t give as much stability as a three-legged one. Only the people can abolish the Seanad and we must think very hard before we do that. The sole purpose of this referendum is Government self perpetuation that we must reject it. We must vote No and shame the Government into reforming the Seanad. Minister Bruton the Director of Elections for the Government has not convinced his own party with many of his party colleagues being quietly apologetic. Enda Kenny will not debate his own proposal; he will not debate anything, which is part of the Fine Gael tradition of being extremely protective of their Taoiseach.

Should We Give More Power To Fewer People In This Country?

Brian Crowley MEP, a former member of the Seanad stated that if you get rid of an institution, it is much more difficult to return it. Abolishing the Seanad will dramatically change the Constitution, as it is inherently part of it, giving examples of impeaching the President and Judges and highlighting the importance of checks and balances. The Seanad can make the President hold a referendum on a piece of legislation thus ensuring constitutional certainty is not being reduced. “This referendum centralises more power in fewer people. The Courts add an extra layer of certainty. The economic crisis has shown the importance of checks and balances because of failures of institutions. The referendum doesn’t put in more checks, but reduces them. Enda Kenny said there was democratic revolution in this country in 2011. In 1930’s there were other leaders talking of democratic revolutions. Fine Gael and Labour backbenchers now claim that an inner cabinet of four people are making decisions to run the country,” the MEP continued.

MEP Crowley also spoke of the arrogance of the current Government after just two and a half years and questioned how much it would further increase in the future, with less checks and balances now being proposed. Deputy Crowley urged everyone to read all available information on the referendum and to get out and spread the message to family, neighbours and friends. “The bottom line is, should we give more power to fewer people in this country. We know this Government’s supposed respect for democracy reducing the influence of the people and transferring it into vested interests. Sinn Féin say the proposal is getting rid of an elite, however in real terms, if passed, it is now going to create a new super elite.” the MEP stated.

Speakers From The Floor

A speaker from the floor also raised the question of consequences for Irish democracy; “I am frightened about the consequences for our democracy and frankly everyone else should be too.  Any country that has a working parliament with only one house e.g. New Zealand, Sweden etc., also has a strong local government. This referendum is all about concentration of power in just one house and one office in that house. Concentrated power always inevitably leads to increased corruption and a worse outcome for people outside the “inner sanctum.”

Another speaker raised the question of the whip system used against 11 TD’s recently, during a vote on Abortion Legislation. “This government is looking to abolish the Seanad, rigidly apply the whip having planned the weakening of local government.  Add all that up and it is as clear as my hand that this referendum is simply a power grab. Putting all that power in just one office could in no way be good for this country,” he stated.

I’m voting “No” because I don’t trust this Government,” one lady stated in the Anner Hotel reception area after the meeting, “I have no intention whatsoever of giving this government a blank cheque, based on vague promises that I don’t believe will be kept in the future and based on promises made being blatantly broken, “without blushing,” by Fine Gael and Labour, over their past two years in office.

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