Fine Gael’s Deputy Director of Elections for the Seanad Abolition Referendum, Regina Doherty TD, has today (Tuesday) criticised Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin TD, for flip flopping on the Seanad, and described his current stance as hypocritical in the extreme, as Deputy Martin did nothing to reform the Seanad during his time as a senior member of Government.
“Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil have flip flopped on the Seanad, and the Party has absolutely no credibility to talk about political reform. In its 2011 General Election Manifesto Fianna Fáil described the Seanad as ‘an entity which is struggling to justify its existence after three quarters of a century’. The Party added that ‘during the last decade the Seanad did not play a substantive role in challenging unsustainable policies’ and ‘it is important to note that second chambers are not an essential part of a parliamentary democracy’. And yet now Micheál Martin believes the Seanad must be saved?
“If Micheál Martin is serious about his stance on the Seanad, I would call on him to answer the following questions:
1. Is Deputy Martin’s u-turn on the Seanad politically motivated?
2. Why does he now believe that Ireland should be the only country of our size in Europe to have two chambers of parliament, when two years ago he thought it was important to note ‘that second chambers are not an essential part of a parliamentary democracy’?
3. Does he think the Seanad has, in the words of his Manifesto, ‘justified its existence’ in the last two years?
4. Does he realise that the Seanad can only delay legislation, not overturn it, and the last time it did so was in 1964?
5. In 2011, Micheál Martin thought that ‘serious questions’ needed to be asked about the continued role of the Seanad. Does he think these questions have been answered?
“Listening to Micheál Martin speaking about the Seanad today was like listening to a newcomer on the political scene. Does Deputy Martin really expect the public to buy his fictional talk of reform, when he did nothing to reform the Seanad during his 14 years as a senior Government Minister? Deputy Martin was high on rhetoric today; he was not so high on action while he was in Government.
“The last time a Seanad reform plan was agreed under a Fianna Fáil Government, in 2004 while Micheál Martin was a senior Minister, it proposed increasing the number of Senators by five. Is this what Deputy Martin means when he talks of reform?
“Fianna Fáil is talking about a reform plan that will never materialise for a second chamber of parliament that we don’t need in the first place. The Party is determined to maintain the status quo and shelter the Seanad as a breeding ground for aspiring Fianna Fáil politicians. Fine Gael is instead giving the public a very real and simple choice; do you want to abolish the Seanad, reduce the number of politicians by a third and save €20 million a year, yes or no?”