Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
I regret that I have been unable to bring this to a conclusion before now but I was otherwise occupied by many other matters. Work is proceeding on the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad but it is outside the remit of the constitutional convention. It is part of the programme for Government and is being dealt with separately as is the issue of the referendum on child protection, which the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs is advancing with the Attorney General. I want to get the structure right here so that when it begins its work it will be able to do so properly. At the first opportunity I get in coming weeks I will brief Deputies Martin and Adams on the composition; the numbers; the breakdown between public representation and citizens; the impact and the question of representation from Northern Ireland; citizens to be included and citizens to be excluded; the range of and how it should go about its work; the numbers to serve on it; and how it is to be serviced from the public service so it can do its job properly.
The Deputy will be aware that the programme for Government sets out a number of areas we would expect the convention to address. My view is that it should start work on one or two of those and then examine the weaknesses or inefficiencies in the system so that consideration could be given to how it might be improved if that is necessary. I would be prepared to discuss the extension of its remit with Opposition leaders when that arises. We also need to define the setting up of the constitutional convention by resolution of the House here and by resolution of the Seanad. I am anxious to have it established, but I also want to discuss with Deputies Martin and Adams what is in my mind in the context of having a structure that will work effectively. We should then give it time periods to deal with each of the issues set out in the programme for Government. I hope we can have that in the next two weeks.