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# Change of heart
James Reilly "honoured" to join Seanad he once called "very undemocratic" and with "no power"
In a 2013 statement calling for the Seanad to be abolished, Reilly labelled it “very undemocratic” and said it had “no power.”

1/7/2010 Fine Gael's New Front Bench Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Updated: 2.35 pm Saturday

FORMER MINISTER JAMES Reilly has told he is “honoured” to be appointed to the Seanad by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, despite his fierce criticism of the institution during the campaign to abolish it.

In 2013 Reilly, who lost his Dáil seat in February’s general election, called the Seanad “very undemocratic”, and criticised the fact that “90% of Senators are elected by existing politicians.”

The former Minister for Health, and later for Children, also said “the Seanad has very little power.” asked Reilly how he reconciled those attacks with joining the Seanad now, and whether he viewed the manner his appointment as democratic. In response, Reilly said in a statement:

I am honoured to be appointed to the Seanad by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and look forward to continuing my work as a legislator in the new Seanad.
The people had their say in the Seanad referendum of 2013 and chose to maintain the Seanad – that’s democracy.
Fine Gael is wholly supportive of Seanad reform which is long overdue. The Programme for Government has a specific section on Seanad reform and commits to the implementation of the Manning report as a matter of priority.
It is also worth noting that under the new strengthened Oireachtas Committee system, Senators will play a very significant role in the legislative process through Committee work, as well as through their work in the Seanad itself.

In September 2013, a few weeks before the unsuccessful campaign to abolish the Seanad, Reilly strongly criticised the institution on Facebook, saying:

The reality is the Seanad is very undemocratic; just 1% of the population elected the current Seanad, and only 3% of the population is entitled to vote in Seanad elections in the first place. 90% of Senators are elected by existing politicians.
Furthermore, the Seanad has very little power. It can only delay, not overturn, legislation, and the last time it actually did so was in 1964. This rubbishes any suggestion that abolishing the Seanad is a power grab; the Seanad has no power to grab.
Most of the time, the Seanad rubberstamps legislation that has already been approved by the Dáil. We don’t need a second chamber that simply replicates the work of the Dáil.

He also emphasised the difficulty of reforming the body, rather than scrapping it:

Some of the debate on the Seanad has centred around the suggestion that it should be reformed. But ten reports have been published on Seanad reform in its 75 years of existence, and nothing has changed.

You can read James Reilly’s September 2013 statement in full, here.

Of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees, six supported the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad in 2013.

They are all Fine Gael TDs who lost their seats at February’s general election: James Reilly, Michelle Mulherin, Frank Feighan, John O’Mahony, Ray Butler and Paudie Coffey, a former Minister of State.

Three other nominees were put forward at the instigation of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin: Joan Freeman, Colette Kelleher and Pádraig O’Céidigh.

Businessman O’Céidigh in 2013 expressed his support for the retention and reform of the Seanad, but we could find no record of the other two nominees articulating any previous position on it.

As he did in 2011, Kenny also nominated outgoing Independent Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell, who has supported reforming the Seanad.

The remaining nominee, Billy Lawless, is not known to have taken any position during the referendum campaign in 2013.

We sent the Taoiseach’s office several questions for this article, but his spokespersons were not in a position to respond by publication time.

Originally published: 8.08 pm Friday

Read: Here’s who the Taoiseach has chosen to fill the remaining Seanad seats>

Read: Here’s how the country voted in the Seanad Referendum>

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