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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 18 January, 2020

Hogan appoints five-member panel to oversee Seanad referendum

The Referendum Commission will be chaired by Justice Elizabeth Dunne, whenever the Oireachtas passes the referendum bill.

Justice Elizabeth Dunne will chair the Referendum Commission to oversee a ballot on abolishing the Seanad.
Justice Elizabeth Dunne will chair the Referendum Commission to oversee a ballot on abolishing the Seanad.
Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

A FIVE-MEMBER PANEL has been appointed to oversee the running of the referendum to abolish the Seanad.

The Referendum Commission for the ballot will be chaired by Justice Elizabeth Dunne of the High Court.

The other members, who are determined by law, are Dáil clerk Kieran Coughlan, Seanad clerk Deirdre Lane, Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, and the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy.

The body is responsible for compiling an impartial, independent guide to the referendum and to distribute it to every home.

After the controversy that followed the Government’s separate information booklet for the Children’s Rights referendum – which fell foul of the Supreme Court, which deemed it to be partially biased – the Government is unlikely to pursue its own booklet.

The Commission is also responsible for encouraging the public to vote, and general awareness of the referendum being held.

The legislation to trigger the referendum was published in full yesterday, after its contents were revealed by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste on Wednesday.

If the referendum is passed, the Seanad would cease to exist after the next Dáil election – meaning the current Seanad would remain in place, but no new chamber would be elected when the current one is dissolved.

The Government plans to hold the referendum in early October, though this is dependant on the Seanad following the Dáil in passing the appropriate legislation.

The Government’s majority in the Seanad – at 30 to 28 – is far smaller than the margin it enjoys in the Dáil.

If two Fine Gael or Labour senators were to defect and vote against the legislation, or able to change the Seanad agenda so that a vote on the legislation was never called, the referendum could be delayed by 90 days.

Read: Enda tells government parties: You must support Seanad abolition

Explainer: What else will change if we scrap the Seanad?

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Gavan Reilly

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