The Irish government lost a referendum proposing the abolition of Seanad Éireann, the country’s upper parliamentary chamber, on October 5 by a narrow margin of 51.7 per cent versus 48.3 per cent. The surprise defeat dealt a blow to the Fine Gael Labour coalition government, particularly Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who had championed the idea, claiming that up to €20m could be saved each year through its closure.
Irish Times’ Political News Editor Arthur Beesley writes of the political damage done to the PM, known in Gaelic as the Taoiseach, adding that the referendum has left him on the “defensive”. He continues –
Kenny emerges with his authority dimmed from the unsuccessful campaign to scrap the Upper House. Now it has failed, he is most closely identified with the defeat. Like all leaders, he likes winning. He lost this one badly. Yet in a time of economic hardship, the result shows that people were not inclined to accept the government’s populist invitation to sack 60 politicians.
For former politician and pro-Seanad supporter Michael McDowell writing in the Irish Independent the result is “a watershed in Irish politics”.
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The broad alliance of civic society, opposition politicians and others – ranging from historians to entrepreneurs to student unions – demonstrated that citizenship in a Republic cannot be hijacked by lies and misinformation. The people have spoken; they want Seanad Eireann to fulfill the function and potential that were envisaged by those who drafted and enacted our Constitution in 1937.