On the referendum to abolish the Senate, Ireland has voted ‘No’.
The result will be an embarrassment to Taoiseach Enda Kenny who called for the referendum to make a leaner system of government, saying it could save up to 20 million euros per year. Opposition party Fianna Fail (Feena Foil) argued that a second house acted as a necessary watchdog.
The Senate only has limited powers to temporarily delay legislation. Enda Kelly’s Fine Gael argued that the last time this power was exercised was in 1964. Senators, many of whom have jobs outside of politics, are not elected by the people but by the prime minister, politicians and university graduates.
Though the ‘No’ vote won, it was only by a narrow margin of 51 percent.
Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny tried to take it in his stride:
“Sometimes in politics you get a wallop in the electoral process. I accept the verdict of the people. But I also say in humility in accepting that verdict that there is a virtue in being able to stand before the people and say I did say 4 years ago I would ask you this question”.
Micheal Martin from Fianna Fail revelled in the slim victory.
“I think it’s a very healthy day for Irish democracy, I think it was a lot stacked up behind a Yes campaign, but I think the Fine Gael/Sinn Fein campaign ran out of the steam and it was based on spin not on substance. But at the same time I think what the people are saying to us very clearly is we want fundamental reform of how Ireland is governed.”
Commentators argue that hugely unpopular austerity measures pushed by the government fueled the ‘No’ vote. The refusal of Kelly to participate in a TV debate was also thought to have influenced the result. The forty percent turnout also points to voter apathy on the issue. However, some politicians believe the result challenges the status quo and hope to push reforms of the 75-year-old institution.