An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Tricked No Voter.

s a No vote an invitation for professional politicians to stab you in the back?

Is a No vote an invitation for professional politicians to stab you in the back?

She voted NO in the Seanad referendum because she wanted a reformed Seanad. That’s what the No side said her vote meant. Earnest senators were on the telly and radio every night, describing in detail how the Zappone/Quinn reforms would transform the Seanad into a model upper house, and so she made her way to the polling station and did her duty. She was delighted when the government’s proposal was rejected.

Now, finally, we’ll see some serious reform!

But then funny things started to happen. Nearly all those enthused senators arguing passionately for reform seemed to go quiet, and Seanad reform just evaporated off the political table. Fine Gael and Labour people, who had quietly campaigned against abolition, suddenly started using phrases like “the people have spoken” and “the matter is settled”.

Some senators even started saying that the people were quite happy with the Seanad, sure hadn’t they voted to keep it as it was?

She was livid. She hadn’t voted to keep it as it was, a house for failed Dail candidates and political wannabes. She voted for the Zappone/Quinn reforms, that’s what they’d promised her!

In the general election, a tiny paragraph in the Fianna Fail manifesto didn’t pledge Zappone/Quinn, but yet another Oireachtas Committee to “review the issue”, as the last 12 previous reviews had, and look at maybe turning the Seanad into a replica mini Dail with 40 Super TDs in large constituencies. No mention of Zappone/Quinn anywhere.

Then there was another Seanad election, and she watched a bunch of young party hacks and failed old boys get another 5 years in the best gentleman’s club in town. All taxpayer funded, of course.

And there wasn’t a thing she could do about it, because when she had the power on polling day, she’d voted to give it back to those same senators.

2 thoughts on “An Occasional Guide to Irish Politics: The Tricked No Voter.

  1. The Seanad abolishment has been a pretty slow moving commitment of the Government from the Programme for Government, probably being delivered more out of the checklist style then any great desire to see it gone. As for the FF opposition, I must admit I’m gob smacked that they’ve no real reform proposal. This has been on the cards since the general election – it seems clearly that they didn’t want to have an alternative for voters but a vague notion of another way. For years many political scientist and others interested in the Seanad reform have put forward ideas that didn’t get any traction – eg use it for EU legislation or technical legislation. This experience leads me to the conclusion that this house can’t be modified while people are in it. Try to modify the panel system then labour movement isn’t happy, or farmers, or business etc. I believe that the extra capacity of good politicians will either improve local government or they will help identify a new role that needs to be done – be it a reformation of the upper house or something else.
    A no vote will lead no where in reform debate.

  2. Well really it’s a question of what a no vote allows. It allows for reform. It might not happen, but the Taoiseach’s lie is a much bigger lie, that a no vote means you like the Seanad exactly the way it is. This is always the lie that governments put out on any referendum, that if you don’t support their proposal then you support everything staying exactly the way it was for all time. I thought the chair of the referendum commission delivered a very biased pro-government spin on the vote on RTE this morning as she kept repeating “there is no option for reform”. Clearly the only way to get reform is to vote no and press for reform.

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