Support grows for Seanad axe
THE country's 60 senators could join the mounting political scrap heap after the General Election.
Fianna Fail and Labour have jumped on the bandwagon to abolish the Seanad, with one Minister suggesting a referendum on the issue as early as March.
There was now a growing expectation that the 23rd Seanad, which is costing €25m a year, could be the last.
The populist move would see voters deciding the future of the Oireachtas upper house on the same day as they select a new Government.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen said that the Cabinet sees "a public appetite for reform and we need to facilitate it".
He suggested that if it was left to a new Government to put the Seanad idea to the test then it might not materialise. "That is because other priorities get in the way. Holding it on Election Day would be the only way to ensure it would happen without distractions," he said.
It is understood that both Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Green Party leader John Gormley are "open" to the idea of moving quickly, but it will be discussed further at Cabinet level before any decisions are made.
"The timescale would comfortably allow it to be done in tandem with the Finance Bill and other legislation," said Minister Killeen.
He also denied that Fianna Fail was merely trying to get one over on the Opposition by pushing through a key part of the Fine Gael manifesto before leaving office.
Enda Kenny stunned many of his own senators in October 2009 when he announced that he would abolish the Seanad.
The move caused serious friction within his party, but is now set to become part of Labour's political reform policy as well.
Fine Gael's deputy leader Dr James Reilly was today accusing the Government of trying to distract from the economic crisis by parachuting a big issue referendum into the middle of an election campaign.
"I believe this is a distraction away from the economic fiasco they have created and may be further used to procrastinate in relation to an early General Election," he said.
Seanad Eireann normally meets on Wednesdays and Thursdays and it's main business is the revising of legislation sent to it by Dail Eireann.