The Seanad Referendum: Now that it’s over.

I decided to write this in that twilight after the polls have closed but before the boxes are open, so that no charge of sour grapes or mocking triumphalism can contaminate what I have to say. But what have we learnt?

1. There are many genuine reformers on the No side, who believe particularly in the Zappone model. I have to admire their sincerity. The problem is that they have been effectively used as human shields by self-serving party political hacks who chose not to defend their own record (“Nobody is in favour of retaining the current Seanad”) but instead hitch up to a noble cause to get them through the storm. If there is a No vote, the reformers, will, I believe, be shocked at the speed at which their new allies will ditch them, and start the same old pre-referendum tricks designed to delay any reform for years, perhaps even decades.

2. I will be STUNNED if a No vote leads to the implementation of Zappone/Quinn. Stunned. It will absolutely change my view of Irish politics as an incredibly cynical self-interested arena.

3. People forget that by saving the Seanad, the pressure is off to propose proper reform. What that means is that if FF in government, for example, proposes a Seanad elected on closed party-nominated hack lists, the only way to stop it is by voting to keep the current Seanad. Abolition is the only way of getting a clean slate which forces genuine reform.

4. The government’s record on political reform is appalling, and claiming that Seanad abolition is reform is nonsense. This government has no more interest in genuine reform than the last one did. It is nothing short of bizarre as to why the government didn’t send the Seanad to the Constitutional Convention, and then put all three options to the vote. That would have forced the No side to attack the Convention.

5. The No campaign started very strongly, but became dominated by Fianna Fail and its obsession with damaging Fine Gael. Obsessing over how much the Seanad cost was such “insider baseball”. And seriously, Fianna Fail has great strengths as a party, but playing the integrity card is not one of them. This is the “IMF aren’t coming” party. Putting Michael McDowell and Micheal Martin up on the last night was basically one big “remember us?” moment.

Finally, on a personal note, I have to say that this campaign has been the most fun I’ve had in politics in years. Whatever happens tomorrow, the people will have spoken, and that’s still a pretty beautiful thing to see in action. For all the name calling we do, the reality is that no one will seriously question the integrity of the result, and that’s something that can’t be taken for granted in huge swathes of Earth. Democracy: sure isn’t it grand?

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