22 October 2009 Edition
Oireachtas reform must also look at Cabinet, Committees and wages
Sinn Féin says Fine Gael ‘making it up as they go along’
SINN FÉIN has said that Dáil and Seanad reform needs real action and not rhetoric and that verbal commitments in recent days to reform the Oireachtas from both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil ring hollow given their long years of dominating Irish politics and setting in place the current system.
Saying that the Seanad, in its current form, should be abolished the party also said that any serious proposals to reform the Oireachtas must also look at the Cabinet and the Oireachtas Committees for savings.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny announced last week that if elected to government Fine Gael would abolish the Seanad. His announcement proved to be a huge surprise to many within his own party but was met with vague statements from Fianna Fail Ministers on the need for Oireachtas reform.
Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty accused Fine Gael of making up their policy on Seanad reform as they go along. Doherty described the Seanad as “elitist and undemocratic” and said it should be abolished in its current form. However the Donegal Senator pointed out that Fine Gael has had three different positions on Seanad reform this year with Enda Kenny only just launching an Oireachtas reform policy in March in which the party called for the retention of 60-member Seanad.
“In 2004 Fine Gael supported a larger Seanad of 65 members with more nominees from the Taoiseach. Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffee, in March this year, described as ‘media mandarins’ those commentators who were calling for the abolition of the Seanad at that time. That was the same month in which Enda Kenny launched a Fine Gael policy on Oireachtas reform in which his party called for the retention of a 60-member Seanad. And now just seven months later he has announced that his party will abolish the Seanad if elected to Government in the next general election. Clearly Fine Gael is making up their policy as they go along in a populist and electorally minded manner.
“Sinn Féin has been clear on this issue. The Seanad, in its current form, is elitist and undemocratic and should be abolished. We welcome Fine Gael’s commitment to abolish the Seanad as it is currently constituted even though we recognise that the move by Enda Kenny is a populist one and probably not genuine.
“There is, we believe, a place for a truly democratic second chamber in Irish politics but it must be directly elected by the people of Ireland and of its citizens abroad representing a wide range of diverse views and increasing the role of community consultation as legislation is being drafted. The Seanad, as it is currently constituted, does not perform this role and should be abolished at the earliest opportunity.”
Meanwhile Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin commenting on the latest developments said:
“It appears that Fine Gael policy at any one time is determined by the advice of Enda Kenny’s PR handlers on what would go down well on the next news bulletin. Meanwhile Fianna Fáil-led governments have shelved a whole series of reports on Oireachtas reform over the past 12 years.
“Fine Gael’s call for Oireachtas reform rings hollow and so does the alleged Fianna Fáil commitment to reform. Both of these parties have dominated Irish politics for decades, during which time they set in place the current system. They have produced numerous reports on Oireachtas reform but have done little, despite – or rather because of – their holding the vast majority of Dáil and Seanad seats between them.
“Sinn Féin would welcome a real debate on Oireachtas reform and we have our own proposals. For example Sinn Féin believes that any serious proposals to reform the Oireachtas must not only look at the role of the Dáil and the Seanad but also at the Cabinet and Oireachtas Committees and at wages across the board.
“There should be a review of the number of Junior Ministers and their wage levels, the number of Oireachtas Committees and the salary levels of Committee Chairpersons, high levels of expenses and the role and necessity of the Seanad.
“The current sparring between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael serves only to conceal the consensus that exists between these two conservative parties on vital economic issues and to obscure their actual record of failure in delivering reform”, Ó Caoláin said.
Commenting on Enda Kenny’s proposal to reduce the numbers of TDs in the Dáil Ó Caoláin said:
“Deputy Kenny’s proposal for the reduction of the number of TDs by at least 20 has come out of the blue and must have taken many of his colleagues by surprise. While some Fine Gael TDs might lose out by such a reduction, the most likely result would be the continued domination of Tweedle-dum/Tweedle-dee Fianna Fáil/Fine Gael politics, with the smaller parties being squeezed out and voters having a more limited democratic choice.
“The Seanad in its present form should be abolished but there would be scope for a truly democratic second chamber, representative of civic society. These proposals should be debated but coming from Deputy Kenny at this time they serve to distract from the fact that Fine Gael is essentially at one with the Fianna Fáil/Green Government in supporting cutbacks in public services and social welfare that would hit the most vulnerable worst.
“The only difference with a Fine Gael-led government would be that they could blame ‘the other crowd’ for the cuts they themselves were inflicting.”
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: Enda Kenny and Brian Cowen are at one in supporting cutbacks in public services and social welfare