Dáil debates

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Ceisteanna - Questions (Resumed)

Abolition of Seanad Éireann

4:00 pm

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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My Department's role in relation to the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad will be the usual one of a sponsoring Department, including preparing proposals for legislation for the referendum, liaising with the Attorney General's office in the preparation of the legislation and support for Government when the legislation is being debated in the Oireachtas.

The proposal to abolish Seanad Éireann was signalled by the Government parties prior to the general election. The Dáil and Seanad will have an opportunity to fully debate the necessary legislation when it is published.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is that it?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is it. We will wait and see.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It is 15 months into the Government's term of office and this is a promise the Taoiseach made with great solemnity well before the last general election.

Photo of Phil HoganPhil Hogan (Minister, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Carlow-Kilkenny, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy made a fair few of them himself.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We did not. Actually, we made none. We deliberately made no promise before the election.

Photo of Paul KehoePaul Kehoe (Minister of State and Government Chief Whip, Department of An Taoiseach; Wexford, Fine Gael)
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You knew you were going to be wiped out.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I said at the time that this was no time to make promises that one could not fulfil.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputies should address their comments through the Chair, please.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Unfortunately, the Taoiseach made too many of them and the people now know that he could never fulfil them. He has lost a lot of trust and credibility as a result. Coming into government, there was no document, preparatory work or research.

Over the past 15 months, we have had various announcements about this matter and now the constitutional convention is being established. I asked earlier about marriage equality but the Taoiseach refused to answer any question on that. He has decided to refer that issue to the convention but, in his own wisdom, not the Seanad question. The Taoiseach has given the distinct impression that a great deal of work has been done but that proposals are far down the road. Perhaps he will outline for the House how much work has been done on the proposal to abolish the Seanad, how many Articles of the Constitution will require amendment-change in this regard, who is overseeing that work and the timeline in respect of the holding of a referendum on abolition of the Seanad.

The referendum on children's rights is promised for the autumn, which we are all agreed should be held on its own. The constitutional conventional agenda will also be dealt with this year. As such, we are looking at 2013 at the earliest in terms of a referendum on abolition of the Seanad, or are we? It is time the Taoiseach produced some evidence of work on this issue. Is it his intention to publish a position paper on the abolition of the Seanad and has a great deal of technical work been done that could, for example, facilitate debate on this issue by the Oireachtas? I would have thought the convention a good forum for discussion of this issue given people have differing views on whether there should be one or two Chambers in our Parliament. The original intent of the convention was to bring about radical reform in terms of how we govern ourselves. However, it will not now do this. It will not deal with this Parliament or with the relationship between it and the Executive or with whether we have a bicameral or unicameral system. It appears that all concerned could have done with that type of reflection. Nonetheless, the Taoiseach is ploughing ahead.

Perhaps the Taoiseach would respond to my questions on how much work has been done, how many Articles of the Constitution will require amendment, who is overseeing this work and when he expects the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad to be held.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Unfortunately for Deputy Martin the Government intends to fulfil its programme for Government, which commits to two issues, which will be outside of the constitutional convention, being decided by referenda. The two issues concerned are children's rights and abolition of the Seanad. The question in regard to the holding of the referendum on the fiscal stability treaty was not envisaged at that time.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am asking about the Seanad.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I am coming to that matter. The presidential election and two referenda were held last year. We need now to reflect on whether it is good to hold more than one referendum on the same day, taking into account the simplicity or complexity of the issues involved.

I can assure Deputy Martin that a great deal of work has been done on the proposal in regard to the abolition of the Seanad. This will require the deletion of all references to the Seanad in the Constitution. In addition to deleting all Articles which establish the Seanad it will also be necessary to amend Articles which primarily deal with other matters but which vest specific constitutional functions in the Seanad or in its members. The types of functions which will have to be considered in this context include, for example, the Seanad's role in triggering the process for determining whether a Bill constitutes a money Bill, motions for early signature of Bills by the President and membership of the Cathaoirleach of the Presidential Commission. This work is being overseen by the Department of the Taoiseach. A great deal of that work has been done.

Deputy Martin asked when the referendum will be held. Perhaps he might offer a suggestion. The children's rights referendum will be held in the autumn. It is hoped that ongoing work in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs will enable publication of the relevant legislation following the Dáil recess, at which time a date for the holding of that referendum will be fixed. It is a complex issue and should be dealt with by way of stand-alone referendum. Ireland holds the Presidency of the European Union from 1 January to end June 2013, during which time the Government and Ministers will be required to focused on dealing with issues affecting this country and on issues relating to the responsibilities of our Presidency. Deputy Martin will be aware that in terms of Presidency of the European Union Ireland follows Cyprus and precedes Lithuania and Greece.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is filibustering. We know all this.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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No, I am not filibustering. Does Deputy Martin suggest the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad should be held in February, March, April, May or June, during which time we may well have to deal with the conclusion of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, namely, the budget for the European Union? Were I to agree to such proposition from Deputy Martin he would be the first to say we cannot do it then because we will be tied up with the Presidency of the European Union and all that involves and means for the Irish economy in terms of dealing with the range of issues that have been around for a long time.

I assure the Deputy that a great deal of work has been done on the question of the abolition of the Seanad. As I stated, this will require the deletion of reference to the Seanad from every relevant Article, with no loss on the corresponding side in respect of the rights of citizens in so far as the Dáil is concerned. I will not make a pronouncement as to when that referendum will be held. However, I can assure the Deputy that it will be held. The people will be asked the question of whether they want the Seanad to be abolished. I believe it should be abolished. I understood from Deputy Martin's comments prior to the election that Fianna Fáil was of the same mind. However, the Deputy appears to be rowing back on this now. This is not the first time someone in his party has done so. However, that is a matter for his party.

I again assure Deputy Martin that the programme for Government is clear on this issue and that the commitment therein on this issue will be carried through. It is only a matter of deciding the appropriate time to do so.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is assuring me of nothing. The setting of a date for this referendum is continually being pushed out. I recall the Taoiseach being equally as adamant a year ago that it would be held this year. The Taoiseach definitively said then that it would be held in 2012. He now says it will not happen during Ireland's Presidency of the European Union because he does not want anything to spoil that party and has suggested that it will be held in the latter half of 2013.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I asked the Deputy to make a suggestion but he did not answer me.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I will deal with that now. Unlike the Taoiseach, I have no need to filibuster.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy should answer my question.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach said a great deal of work has been done.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Will he share that work with the Oireachtas?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy did not attend any of the briefings on the constitutional convention.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Never mind that nonsense. I am asking the Taoiseach to share the work which he says has been done. With the greatest of respect, the Taoiseach gives a great deal of silly responses.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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If the Deputy puts his questions I will seek the answers for him.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach should treat this House with a little more respect.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Martin did not turn up for the briefings on constitutional matters.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Fianna Fáil's spokesperson and Chief Whip, Deputy Ó Fearghail, attended the briefing which was just a role-out of the convention.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy is decrying that.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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It was a sham and everybody knows that.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Ó Fearghail spoke well. He did a good job.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am asking the Taoiseach if he will share the work that has been done on the abolition of the Seanad with the Oireachtas. Why will the Taoiseach not do so? Will it publish that work so that the Oireachtas can discuss it?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes, I will share it but at the appropriate time.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What I said during the election - I made this very clear - is that we believe in real reform of politics in this country-----

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy had 14 years in Government to do it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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-----and of the relationship between the Executive and the Parliament. We did not favour abolition of the Seanad on its own.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil did nothing when in Government for 14 years.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We favour abolition of the Seanad as part of a broader reform of our political system.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Right.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We made that very clear at the time. Reducing the number of Dáil Members by eight and abolishing the Seanad while doing absolutely nothing to change how we behave is not radical reform. It is optic politics and playing to the gallery.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Deputy Martin is well used to that.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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That is all the Taoiseach is doing. As far as I can see what the Taoiseach is doing in terms of abolition of the Seanad is playing this out until such time as he considers it most politically opportune to throw it into the frame, from an electoral point of view.

Photo of John PerryJohn Perry (Sligo-North Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil is well used to doing that.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I ask that the Taoiseach share that work with both Houses of the Oireachtas and with his parliamentary party, some of whom are concerned about this issue.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I will share the information but at the appropriate time.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Why will the Taoiseach not share it now?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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One of the other issues-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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What is the big deal?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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This will interest the Deputy.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We are having a convention on the Constitution.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy said that he supports the abolition of the Seanad as part of a broader political reform agenda.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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That was our view during the election.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is what the Deputy said. One of the issues already provided for in the programme for Government and to be considered by the constitutional convention is the electoral system.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Yes.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Fianna Fáil has views on that issue and on how Ministers-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We made a submission on it.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----should not have anything to do with constituents. I accept that the Deputy has his own point of view as do I. The assessment by the constitutional convention-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach tends not to have a point of view on these issues.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I do have a point of view. I believe the Seanad should be abolished. The intention of Government is to put that to the people and let them decide on it.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Will the Taoiseach share the papers?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes, I will share them.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Now.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Not now, but at the appropriate time.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Why?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The other fact is that, as the Deputy knows, a reduction of the Dáil numbers by eight is the limit without holding another referendum. The constitutional convention is to look at the electoral system - whether we have multi-seat constituencies-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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But I am asking-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----single-seat constituencies, the French system or whatever. It will be very interesting to see what the constitutional convention will come up with in that regard. That will be part of a broader electoral reform package, which I know the Deputy wants. What he wants to do is to try to restructure this in such a way that his party might have some fleeting chance of getting back into office again. That is also a matter for the people.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We have been led to believe that an incredible amount of work is going on behind the scenes. Could the Taoiseach share that with us?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy asks a question to get an answer.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We cannot get an answer. That is the point.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The reduction by eight seats and - if the people decide to approve it - the abolition of the Seanad will reduce the overall Oireachtas size by 33%.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach is on the way to abolishing democracy.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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All this information will be out there at the appropriate time - we have a lot of stuff to do now. In respect of the question of the Seanad being abolished, I will give all the information to everybody when it is appropriate on the lead-in to the question being asked of the people.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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We are being asked to discuss seven items in the constitutional convention, including gay marriage, equality, electoral systems-----

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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And others.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We will not go through that now.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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I am not going to go through that.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We are talking about the abolition of the Seanad.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The point about the Seanad is as follows. What is the objection to sharing all the background work on what it takes to abolish the Seanad with everybody in the Oireachtas? Why not do that now?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I do not want to confuse the Deputy with an overload of information. He can believe me that there is a great deal of-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Taoiseach might confuse himself.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----interesting material there.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Is there?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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There is, actually.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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Could he share it with me?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Yes, I will share it with him at the appropriate time - of course I will. That, together with the constitutional convention review of the electoral system, will, I think, provide great fodder for those who are in politics and those who aspire to be in politics. All in its good time. The Deputy can take it that the programme for Government in this matter-----

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Government Senators are on the run, I think.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----will be implemented in full. It is just a question of timing.

Photo of Michelle MulherinMichelle Mulherin (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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If Deputy Martin is looking for reform, he should stop the posturing.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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As Shakespeare said at one time, all is in the timing.

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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The Government is eight Senators down - eight Deputies down.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Readiness is very important.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Shakespeare also said: "There is a tide in the affairs of men." One thing I have learned from being here is that when the Taoiseach decides not to answer a question, he does not answer it. I was going to ask him when we could expect legislation on the future of the Seanad and when a referendum would be likely to be held. There is a seanfhocal in the North that states "Whatever you say, say nothing." It must have come from Mayo because the Taoiseach is right on the button.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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What is the seanfhocal?

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Let me try another couple of questions. Sinn Féin's view is that the issue of the future of the Seanad should be part of the constitutional convention. If we are carrying out a thorough review of the Constitution, covering the electoral system, the political system, presidential terms and so on, it seems appropriate to put the Seanad into that also. Some of these other issues are also matters for the programme for Government but he has no problem putting those into the constitutional convention.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Perhaps the Deputy might ask his supplementary question, as I want to move on.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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A reformed Seanad could find space for people such as the Traveller community, for people who are disenfranchised, for people from the diaspora and citizens living in the North. Will the electorate be presented with options on the future of the Seanad or will it simply be a choice between the status quo and abolition?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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The answer to that question is "No". The legislation and all the information surrounding it will be debated in full by everybody and the question on the ballot paper will require a "Yes" or "No".

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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"Yes" or "No" to what?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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To the abolition of the Seanad. The question will be: "Do you wish to abolish Seanad Éireann?", requiring a "Yes" or "No" answer. It will be very straightforward and the people will give their answer. On the run-in to that legislation being published, all the information Deputy Martin and others require will be made available to the fullest extent possible and that debate will take place. This is part of the programme for Government and both parties agreed it. That is outside the convention as is the child protection referendum - those two are very clear. We will hold those when it is appropriate to do so. In respect of electoral reform, the constitutional convention will reflect on that. If we did not have an agreement beforehand-----

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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Or a Labour Deputy.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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-----clearly the Seanad option could be one for the convention to consider. However, we have already put it into the programme for Government that if the constitutional convention and the persons who serve on it decide that there is another issue or other issues that are of such importance that they should also be considered by the constitutional convention, as I told the Deputy at the briefings he attended, it will be possible for the constitutional convention to do that. The Seanad and the child protection referendum are outside the convention and are part of the programme for Government. The question will be put to the people in due course.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I have a very short question.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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I will be very brief.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We have had a good deal of time on this.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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The Taoiseach made a very pertinent point. He said that if the constitutional convention wishes to raise other issues, it could do so. What would happen if the constitutional convention wishes to raise the future of the Seanad?

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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It may certainly reflect on it, but the Government has already decided that the question of the abolition of the Seanad will be put to the people. In the ordinary course of events when the constitutional convention makes a finding to the Government, for instance, in respect of the reduction of the voting age to 17 or the reduction of the presidential term of office from seven years to five years, it will outline its reflection, finding and recommendation. In each of those cases the Government has committed to responding "Yes" or "No" within four months. For instance, if the constitutional convention recommends that the voting age should be reduced, the Government will respond positively within four months to them all. However, in the case of the Seanad and child protection, the Government has already decided that we will have a referendum on each of these two things. They are both complex - it is just a question of timing. If we had not had the fiscal stability referendum, we might have had one before summer and one after summer. It was most important that it stand on its own and that the child protection one would stand on its own. I am hopeful that the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs will be able to bring a consensus wording to Government shortly and we will be able to publish the legislation for that very early in the new session.

Photo of Gerry AdamsGerry Adams (Louth, Sinn Fein)
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One referendum does not make a summer.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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Nor one swallow, in which there is some providence in respect of his fall.