John Drennan’s Sindo article points to growing backbench opposition to the government’s proposed referendum on abolishing the Seanad. This development is unsurprising, given the tightness of electoral margins in Ireland’s political system and the personal investment of Oireachtas members in retaining their positions (although, as we all know, the pension’s not too bad if you do get the boot). However, the naked self-interest on display in this debate is enough to sicken even a seasoned observer of the venality of the Irish political class.
Drennan focuses on the potential consequences for FG of Seanad abolition. For FG, a slide in popularity post-election, combined with boundary revisions and the abolition in the Seanad could mean that around 40 of the current crop of Oireachtas members would be ‘dead men walking’. A senior FG figure is quoted as comparing the Seanad to the ESM – i.e., a back up option for failed professional politicians who could not win a legitimate seat via election with universal suffrage.
The fact that such considerations, and not concerns about the malfunctioning of Irish democracy, are motivating this debate is a sad reflection on the state of Irish politics. In time we will see whether Enda Kenny presses forward with a referendum on Seanad abolition nonetheless. Kenny has, for some reason, staked political capital on a promised referendum, so not holding one would be a significant U-turn.
One thing is clear, nobody can justify the ongoing existence of the Seanad in its present abject, undemocratic state.