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Minister: 'We are not abolishing the Seanad'

Abolition of the upper house will be a decision for the Irish people, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said this morning.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

AGRICULTURE MINISTER SIMON Coveney has said that the abolition of the Seanad will be a decision of the people and has hinted that if the upcoming referendum is defeated then it could be reformed.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Minister said that the people of Ireland were being asked whether they want the government to abolish the upper house and insisted it was their choice.

He also indicated that rejection of the proposal to abolish the chamber could mean it is reformed, saying: “If the people in their wisdom decide that they want a reformed Seanad and they want to retain it well then of course it’s their right to make that decision.”

Independent senator Katherine Zappone, who was nominated to the Seanad by the Taoiseach two years ago, hit out at the proposals calling for reform rather than abolition and criticised planned changes to Dáil committees and other measures proposed by the government yesterday.

“All we have in terms of Dáil reform is a promise, a press release,” she said saying that although Fine Gael had abolition of the chamber in their election manifesto there were other aspects of the programme for government which have not come to fruition.

She also suggested that there did not need to be a rush to hold a referendum – which is set to take place in early October – saying: “What’s the rush? Why are we rushing to do this massive significant change of the governance of our country?”

Coveney insisted that the proposal to abolish the Seanad was being done in conjunction with changes to local government to give councils more autonomy and pointed out that a unicameral system – where a country has one parliamentary house instead of two – is common in countries of a similar size to Ireland.

“The government is putting this to the people. We are not abolishing the Seanad, we are asking the people of Ireland whether they want us to do that,” he said.

“So we are providing the ultimate public debate now in the form of a long public referendum campaign between now and early October when we can have a national discussion on this as we are starting today.”

Read: Government announces Dáil reform plans if Seanad is scrapped

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Hugh O'Connell

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