Retaining the Seanad: Ireland’s love of second houses

How times change: the last government tried to convince us all to buy second houses in Bulgaria, this one seems to think we can’t even afford two on Kildare Street.

The defeat of the referendum to abolish the Seanad has left the government with redder faces than the audience at a Miley Cyrus concert.

Miley Cyrus: so far she's maintained a dignified silence when asked how she would have voted in the Seanad referendum.

Miley Cyrus: so far she’s maintained a dignified silence when asked how she would have voted in the Seanad referendum.

The polls had all pointed to an easy win for the ‘Yes’ vote, and Enda Kenny was so relaxed that he opted against a televised debate in favour of watching the Great Bakeoff. (That’s actually speculation. To be fair, there were a few decent things on the box that night.)

The government had made so many cups of tea for focus groups that they were convinced they had their arguments straight: dump the Seanad and you’ll save €20m and stick it to the political class. Who wouldn’t vote for that?

So what the hell happened?

In retrospect, asking an electorate so obsessed with property to vote to abolish a house was always going to be a tough sell, especially when the people never really believed the €20m figure.

If Enda Kenny really thinks it costs that much to maintain a second house he should talk to Padraig Flynn, who managed to heroically maintain three on a salary a mere fraction of that.

Whether the potential savings of €20m were accurate was almost irrelevant. Faced with a budget later this month that will more than likely reduce government spending by €3bn, the electorate suddenly realised that €20m wasn’t actually that much money in the context of the national exchequer.

It was a bit like telling someone you have a revolutionary plan that could see them save €4 a year and expecting them to bear hug you with excitement.

An artists impression of how a street demonstration against Seanad abolition would have looked had the electorate particularly cared.

An artists impression of how a street demonstration against Seanad abolition would have looked had the electorate particularly cared.

It was also argued that the Seanad is nothing but a home for failed politicians. Some people have argued the same thing about the Dáil, but nobody has ever called for it to be abolished.

There were legitimate arguments in favour of abolishing the Seanad, it’s just a pity the government never thought of them. Instead of putting forward a joined-up plan to reform local and national political institutions, they put forward a sop based on populist slogans.

In fact, the argument to get rid of politicians may have been what sunk the campaign. The only conclusion from the result is that the Irish electorate has so little faith in its politicians that it thinks the more of them they elect the less damage any one of them as an individual can do.

That’s the really sobering thought out of all of this: far from being an affirmation of our democracy, could it be that the electorate’s decision to maintain an upper house is actually a sign of a complete lack of faith in it?

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About eoghanwrites

Stories and photographs from the developing world, with some Irish nonsense thrown in for good measure.
This entry was posted in Dublin, Ireland, Politics, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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