Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Enda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
As a candidate in the presidential campaign, Mr. Sarkozy said that if he were elected president, he would implement the Lisbon treaty by parliamentary majority, which is what he did. The French Government and system is their own and not for me to comment on. We have made clear issues of change by referendum here.
The other question related to the Deputy's party's set of proposals prior to the last election concerning parliamentary reform, some of which were very different and radical. It is part of the programme for Government that we intend to carry through. The drafting of a Bill to abolish the Seanad by way of referendum will require the deletion of all references to the Seanad in the Constitution, including Articles 18 and 19, which refer to the composition of the Seanad. There would also need to be amendment of all direct, indirect or implied references to the Seanad, including references to either or both Houses, as well as all references that vest specific functions in the Seanad or its Members. With this point, it would be necessary to consider, for example, if any functions currently constitutionally vested in the Seanad or its Members would need to be performed differently. The types of functions I refer to include, for example, the Presidential Commission, of which the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad is a member owing to Article 14. There is also the case of money Bills, as the Seanad triggers the process for determining whether a Bill is a money Bill. This is provided for in Article 22, but has never happened. The Seanad moves motions for the early signature of Bills by the President, as provided for in Article 25. Under Articles 12, 13, 33 and 35 of the Constitution, the Seanad has a role in the removal from office of the President, the Comptroller and Auditor General and judges. The current constitutional mechanisms safeguard the independence of these offices. Clearly, these principles will need to be carefully considered in the context of the proposed abolition of the Seanad. These issues are not to be taken lightly. From that perspective, when the Bill is prepared, it will have to ensure the Constitution is, in effect, squeezed dry of all direct or indirect references to the Seanad, implied or otherwise. No right or facility currently available through the Seanad under the Constitution should be lost by means of the changes that are to be made to the Oireachtas. That is an issue on which I am deliberating. As I said when we discussed the child protection referendum, we do not want to produce something that has not been fully thought through. These are some of the issues with which I have to contend. Obviously, many of them are not to be taken lightly.