It’s a difficult thing to admit you want to vote the same way Fianna Fail actually want you vote. It’s unsettling really. Especially when every political party you’ve ever voted for is telling you to do the opposite.
A great deal of our country’s citizens don’t have the first clue what function the Seanad even serves, much less the ability to put a human face on the office. David Norris is probably the only current Senator who means anything to the average Irish Joe, and that would mainly stem from his ill-fated Presidential bid two years ago. Although his popularity took a massive hit back then he’s still a well-respected figure in many circles. For many he has come to represent the Seanad, and he is quick to defend the upper house of the Oireachtas.
Wednesday night saw four of the country’s most prominent politicians hash out their own feelings on the impending referendum; a notable absence in any of the discussions on the subject has been our Taoiseach Enda Kenny. “He’s in hiding,” says Senator Norris. “He won’t debate his proposal to abolish half the legislature i.e. the Senate with any political leader. Why? Perhaps because he knows the truth and wants to avoid it.”
Norris is adamant that Fine Gael (specifically Kenny) are treating the public like “fools” and has accused them of being undemocratic in their quest to abolish the Seanad. “The Government have already won the Presidency, the largest majority ever in the Dail, all the local authorities- whose number, authority and influence they are now reducing as hard as they can- all the committees of the Oireachtas which they control by majority vote, the banks which they bought with our money without consulting us, the army, navy, air force, gardai and if they have their way Seanad Eireann, the last little vehicle of dissent and protest, will be wiped away.”
While Senator Norris feels we should “vote No and teach them (the Government) a lesson”, this may be a slightly simplistic view. Surely the voters should be weighing up the positives and negatives of this referendum, rather than throwing a petulant hissy fit?
It’s not enough to say “screw Fine Gael/Labour/Sinn Fein; I’m not doing what they tell me to”. This can’t be about party politics, for either camp.
The fact may be that the Seanad is a woefully underused facet of our government, but since when does that mean we need to get rid of it altogether? Many agree that what’s needed here is a radical reform, and many more agree that the government will never get around to implementing them.
Does that mean we simply let them off the hook? These elected officials work for us; something that is sadly forgotten all too often. It isn’t enough to vote against them for the sake of voting against them and sticking it to the man. That’s called cutting off your nose to spite your face. It also isn’t enough to go against potentially good strategic moves for the country, simply because we’ve lost faith in our Government. Surely the mere fact that we have lost faith in them should mean that they shouldn’t be left unchecked and unsupervised to pass whatever legislation they see fit?
Think of this as a golden opportunity; instead of throwing something old and (arguably) broken onto the scrapheap, let us seize this chance to make into something new and effective.