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Seanad referendum

"I don't want to embarrass you" - Taoiseach's excuse for not doing TV debate with Martin

Enda Kenny clashed with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the first Leaders’ Questions of the new Dáil term today.

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has told Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that he does not want to debate him on the future of the Seanad “because I don’t want to embarrass you”.

At the first Leaders’ Questions of the new Dáil term, Kenny said that it would be “difficult to know which Deputy Martin would turn up for a debate” pointing to Fianna Fáil’s previous position on the future of the Seanad.

Martin challenged Kenny to a debate on the Seanad ahead of the October referendum saying that the elimination of the upper house is a “very important issue.”

But Kenny said: “I don’t want to embarrass you.”

Martin also asked that if the referendum is defeated would Kenny commit to reform of the Seanad but the Taoiseach said “for 50 years the political system failed to deal with Seanad Éireann.”

“It’s [the Seanad] not necessary in a country of this size, not necessary where constitutional responsibility is very clearly vested in this house [the Dáil].

Martin said that the Taoiseach is “not prepared to take part in one of the basic elements of democracy” but Kenny hit back, saying it would be “very difficult” to debate with someone who has changed their mind on the issue.

‘Truly democratic’

“On the one hand you say you are for the abolition and the next day you say: ‘Well, we think it should be retained actually,’” Kenny told Martin.

The Taoiseach added: “I hope that they give a resounding answer to abolish it and let’s get on with our business here of making this place truly democratic.”

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams raised the issue of the Budget with Kenny saying that it is “not possible and I don’t intend to speculate” on the final decision that is made in relation to the scale of the adjustment and whether or not it is €3.1 billion.

Kenny pointed to various indicators which showed the economy recovering including 3,000 new jobs in the private sector every month and the numbers on the Live Register falling.

He said that unemployment numbers are “heading in the right direction, still much too high and still a great deal of work to be done here.”

The Taoieach added that the government would do “its utmost to be as fair as possible” in the choices it makes in relation to the Budget.

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