FINE GAEL HAS said that a so-called ‘secret report’ which convinced Enda Kenny that the Seanad needed to be abolished was in fact published over three years ago.
The party was responding to a call by the DCU professor and Democracy Matters campaigner Gary Murphy in the Irish Indpendent today for the Taoiseach to publish a ‘secret report’ which is said to have convinced him to abolish the upper house.
Democracy Matters, which is advocating retention and reform of the Seanad, has confirmed that Murphy is writing to Kenny to ask him to publish the report.
A spokesperson for the group said that the report was alluded to by Fine Gael TD and deputy director of the party’s referendum campaign, Regina Doherty, in an interview last month.
But Fine Gael said that the ‘secret report’ is the ‘New Politics’ document that was published in March 2010 by future environment and local government minister Phil Hogan.
“Enda Kenny, as leader, was obviously given an advance copy of the ‘New Politics’ before it was published, and as you can see, this is where the proposal for Seanad abolition came from,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that Hogan would have been consulting with the Fine Gael leader as they formulated policy ideas and said that Kenny had access to “most or all of that information [contained in the New Politics document] well before publication”.
Kenny surprised many when he called for the abolition of the Seanad in his speech at the Fine Gael Presidential Dinner in October 2009, just months after he had argued for reforming the house.
Kenny said at the time that “our two-house Oireachtas is an odd man out in Europe” and in its ‘New Politics ‘ document the party pointed to Ireland being “significantly over-represented because of the Seanad” in comparison to Scandinavian countries and New Zealand.
The proposal later made it into Fine Gael’s 2011 general election manifesto and the programme for government which pledged to hold a referendum on “an number of urgent parliamentary reform issues” including abolition of the Seanad.
Speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne on 15 July, Regina Doherty said: “He [the Taoiseach] is on record of saying that what happened after that was that himself and Phil Hogan took a piece of work, a report, a bit of information gathering during those six months between then and November when he did announce that he would put the referendum to the people.”
Speaking to TheJournal.ie this afternoon Gary Murphy said that the public have a right to see why Kenny “changed his mind so substantially” but accepted there may not be a ‘secret report’ when Fine Gael’s comments – that there is a publicly available report outlining the Seanad abolition argument – were put to him.
“My view is that if Fine Gael say there is not a [secret] document, I’ll take them at their word, but clearly Regina Doherty did say there is such a document,” he said.
“He [Kenny] clearly said in July 2009 that he was in favour of a reformed Seanad, and he then said at the Fine Gael dinner two-and-a-half months later that he was in favour of abolishing the Seanad.
“If there is a document, we’d like to see it. If it doesn’t exist we’d happily take them at their word.”
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