Dublin, 6 October
Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny vowed to push forward with reform of the Upper House of parliament after voters rejected his plan to abolish the Senate to save the bailed-out eurozone nation money.
In a surprise blow for Mr Kenny after he personally led the campaign to ditch the Senate, voters in a referendum on Friday narrowly opted to keep the 60-member House, according to results announced late yesterday.
Final results revealed that 51.7 per cent voted in favour of keeping the Senate, or Seanad Eireann, while 48.3 per cent wanted to scrap it. Turnout was just 39.2 per cent with about 1.2 million voters.
“Sometimes in politics you get a wallop in the electoral process. I accept the verdict of the people,” Mr Kenny told reporters outside Dublin Castle after the result was announced.
“The process of change in politics is something that we want to continue with. And now that the people have given a very clear decision in respect of the Senate, I think it’s important to assess how best the Senate can contribute effectively to that process of reform and I’ll reflect on that over the period ahead.”
Opinion polls had suggested voters would likely back Mr Kenny’s proposal to scrap the Senate, which had the support of the coalition government parties and some of the Opposition.
The Prime Minister had described the Upper House as elitist and undemocratic, saying its closure could save the nation 20 million euros ($27 million) a year.
Opponents said the Senate, which was created in 1937, should be reformed instead of abolished.
Micheal Martin, leader of the Opposition Fianna Fail party, urged Mr Kenny to press on with “real reform of our parliament and government”.
“This result is complete rejection of the government’s strategy of talking about reform but simply increasing their own power,” he said in a statement.
Many Irish blame their country’s politicians for failing to properly manage the “Celtic Tiger” economic boom, which ended in Dublin entering a European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout in November 2010 after a decade of growth collapsed.
Voters also backed the creation of a new Court of Appeal in a separate referendum Friday. It passed by 65.2 per cent in favour to 34.8 per cent against. Dublin hopes the new court will alleviate the pressure on the heavily backlogged Supreme Court.