A war of words has broken out between two constituency representatives over the Seanad referendum.
Monaghan Sinn Féin councillor Matt Carthy accused Fianna Fáil of being “opportunistic” over their stance on Seanad reform. Sinn Féin are voting to abolish the upper house, while Fianna Fáil are pushing reformation over abolition.
The young councillor was criticised for his own statement by local Fianna Fáil stalwart Brendan Smith who said the debate was too important for “political point-scoring”.
“If Fianna Fáil was really interested in reforming the Seanad,” said Cllr Carthy, “they had three terms of government and decades of opportunity to do so, but they chose time and time again not to reform the Seanad but to use it as a prop for their own party interests.
“Over the last two weeks we have seen Fianna Fáil spokespersons lining up in the most opportunistic fashion to call for the reform of the Seanad, ignoring the fact that the Fianna Fáil leadership were in the best position to introduce such reforms in recent years.
“For Fianna Fáil, the Seanad has always been an instrument of their power, not a check or balance to it. It was where they provided a political lifeline for former TDs or provided an office and perks to aspiring candidates,” he said.
Fianna Fáil Deputy Brendan Smith hit back: “People are not interested in hearing politicians wasting all their energy bickering at each other and using this important campaign just to score political points.
“The issue of political reform is far too important for that. I agree that no government has done nearly enough to make the kind of changes that our political system needs. “The Seanad vote next week is an opportunity to demand that reform.
“The Seanad in its current form does not work as it should. But scrapping it means handing even more power over to a political elite – giving Ministers at the Cabinet table in Dublin more control than they already have. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the economic crisis it’s that we need more scrutiny of political decisions – not less.
“We can provide this by reforming the Seanad so that it acts on behalf of the people in scrutinising the decisions made by Ministers.
“This is a power grab plain and simple and I believe that voters in Cavan will see through it. Only a No vote sends out a strong message that we want real political reform, and not a further centralisation of power at the Cabinet table.”
Cllr Carthy branded the Seanad “elitist, undemocratic and outdated” claiming it has “no role a modern society”.
In the last two-and-a-half years, it has supported the government on every single occasion, he noted.
“Senators cannot prevent a bill from being passed into law. They can delay a bill, for just 90 days. The last time the Seanad did this was 1964 – it was a Pawnbrokers Bill – and the Seanad voted against it by accident. They cannot delay a money bill at all.
“The Seanad is an affront to democracy because it goes against the most basic principle of a modern democratic electoral system – the principle of equality between citizens – one person one vote. That is why we should vote yes and abolish it on 4 October,” he said.
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