Embarrassment for Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny as government suffers defeat in referendum to abolish upper house of Parliament

  • Enda Kenny accused upper house of being elitist and undemocratic
  • Despite early predictions No camp won vote with 51.7 per cent of vote
  • Second referendum on Court of Appeal passed with 65 per cent
  • Kenny called the outcome 'a wallop' but said he accepted the verdict

By Chris Pleasance

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Enda Kenny, Ireland's Prime Minister, lead the campaign to abolish the upper house of Parliament and defeat in the referendum today will be seen as a personal embarrassment

Enda Kenny, Ireland's Prime Minister, lead the campaign to abolish the upper house of Parliament and defeat in the referendum today will be seen as a personal embarrassment

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has admitted he is personally disappointed after his Government suffered 'a wallop' in a referendum to abolish the country's upper house of parliament.

Almost 52% of the public voted to keep the Seanad, in what was an embarrassing and damaging blow to Mr Kenny, who spearheaded a campaign to scrap it.

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

Mr Kenny said: 'Sometimes in politics you get a wallop in the electoral process. I accept the verdict of the people.'

The Taoiseach added that he welcomed the clarity of the public in what was the ultimate exercise of democracy.

'Naturally I am personally disappointed but I fully accept and respect the outcome,' said Mr Kenny.

The Taoiseach said the Government would now reflect on how to reform the upper house to make sure it can contribute to Irish politics in 'a meaningful way'.

He insisted he had stuck with a promise he made four years ago to put the question of abolishing the Seanad to the people.

'The Seanad question was one element of a process of change and reform to politics that Government has been pursuing,' Mr Kenny added.

'Now that the people have made their decision and that they have decided and confirmed that the Seanad is retained as part of our constitution intuitions, I must now reflect upon what the best way that that can be made an effective contributor to the change in politics which I intend to continue within the Dail and in the wider sphere.'

Elsewhere, Mr Kenny welcomed the outcome of a second referendum, in which 65.29% of the Irish public voted to create a Court of Appeal.

Kenny first announced his intention to scrap the second chamber in 2009 when he was the leader of the opposition.

 

During his campaign, he insisted the public is faced with only two choices - abolishing the Seanad, or retaining it.

The Irish Parliament is currently made up of the Seanad and the Dail (pictured). The referendum would have abolished the upper house and handed all power to the lower

The Irish Parliament is currently made up of the upper Seanad and the Dail (pictured). The referendum would have abolished the upper house and handed all power to the lower

He argued that abolition would create a leaner, more effective and more accountable political system.

He called the 75-year-old institution elitist, undemocractic and promised its abolition would save money.

Advocates for the senate, including the main opposition party Fianna Fail, accused the government of a power grab.

Kenny's party, Fine Gael, and junior coalition partner Labour were supported by opposition party Sinn Fein in their campaign.

Opponents, led by the largest opposition party, Fianna Fail, successfully argued that  the Seanad is necessary to serve as a watchdog and to hold the ruling Cabinet ministers to account.

The Irish parliament, the Oireachtas, is currently made up of the lower house, the Dail, from which Government operates, and the upper house, the Seanad - where poet William Butler Yeats once sat.

The 60 members of the Senate, many of whom have jobs outside of politics, have only limited powers such as the ability to temporarily delay legislation, much like England's House of Lords.

The country's last referendum on children's rights, held in late 2012, saw a turnout of just 33%.


The comments below have not been moderated.

It would have added a lot to the story if the DM had explained how members of the Seanad are 'elected'? In what way is the Seanad "undemocratic"? It must have some meaning for the people of Ireland as they have freely voted to keep it. They could have the system we have in Australia where no one has a clue how members of the senate suddenly find themselves with a seat. Our senate electoral system makes a dog's dinner look like a vicarage tea party.

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The people wanted to keep a court of failed politicians in luxury? Yeah that sounds right....

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Yolo

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Im sure he is working on orders from his puppet masters in Brussels. The EU wants to remove as many levels of national government it can to speed up the passing of directives from Brussels. The harsh truth is Ireland is now a vassal of the EU, they would have been better off remaining part of the UK!

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The best comment I heard about the vote was one that said, "don't we need MORE representation, to keep an eye on the power-mad bureaucrats??" Instead, Kenny offered a REDUCTION in the number of eyes keeping the system accountable. Democracy won; anti-democrats lost.

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"Mr Kenny said: "Sometimes in politics you get a wallop in the electoral process. I accept the verdict of the people. Naturally I am personally disappointed but I fully accept and respect the outcome" +++ At least he accepted defeat with a good grace! Totally unlike Cleggy Boyo who threw a wobbly screaming tantrum and threw his toys out of his pram when he lost both over the reforming of the House of Lords and the Proportional Representation fiasco here!

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No problem for the banana republic of Ireland they will hold another referendum next year.

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Newsworthy really ..?

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New Zealand have only a Lower House to govern approx. the same population as Ireland and they do it quite nicely. As with Australia I am sure most of the Irish Senate were hand picked by the big parties and are therefore only front people, the remainder are odd ball senators who managed to get in through some wriggle of figures etc., e.g : A new senator in our Senate in Canberra is a bloke whose only interested is cars thus herepresents the 'Motorists Enthusiasts Party. " Another one represents, "The Sex Party. " I am sure they will add something to proceedings maybe one can do an oil change, and the other a sex change during the lunchtime break. Upper Houses should be abolished ditto the Lords they are a total waste of money.

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Good result- government cant just push through any law they wish now- that was the aim of this- to have complete control. The Seanad needs reforming not removing. Also, Taoiseach isn't part of his name it's the Gaeilge (Irish) for prime minister.

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