SINN FÉIN HAS today launched its campaign for a Yes vote in the forthcoming Seanad abolition referendum with the party’s own senators describing the second chamber as “elitist” and “undemocratic”.
Director of Elections Pearse Doherty said today that the “cronyism and elitism that are synonymous” with the upper house has “fostered the type of politics that has brought this State to its knees”.
The party is campaigning for the abolition of the Seanad despite having opposed the legislation which gave effect to the referendum during the summer.
Doherty said the party’s position has always been clear in that it wanted the future of the Seanad to go to the Constitutional Convention for consideration but that in the wake of the government’s decision to bypass this option it is supporting abolition given the straight choice before the electorate.
He dismissed any talk of Seanad reform saying “it is a false debate” and that opponents of abolition are “talking about a mythical chamber that does not exist”.
Doherty, the party’s finance spokesperson, was joined in launching the campaign today by two of Sinn Féin’s three senators, Kathryn Reilly and David Cullinane.
Both of them played down any suggestion of a contradiction in them supporting the scrapping of a house they speak and debate in.
“The Seanad represents a very blatant inequality at the very heart of our political system,” Reilly said while Cullinane said the upper house “in its current form should be abolished”.
He later said that “our participating in the Seanad is not the issue” saying that as Republicans the party was not going to “stand over that second chamber”.
“We’re very, very clear: How could we as Republicans stand over the Seanad in its current form?” Cullinane, who has unsuccessfully contested three elections to the Dáil, said later.
Doherty added: “The Seanad replicates the work of the Dáil, it does exactly what the Dáil does but with less powers.”
Sinn Féin intends to produce half-a-million leaflets and erect in the region of 200 posters in each county in the run-up to the referendum which takes place on 4 October.