Enda Kenny admits to ‘personal disappointment’ after shock vote defeat
Referendum blow adds to pressure on Irish leader
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny has admitted that defeat in the Senate referendum is a disappointing and crushing blow for his party and on a personal level.
The Fine Gael leader had led the bid to abolish the upper house of the Irish parliament in his party’s election manifesto.
But the Irish people voted by a majority of 42,000 in Friday’s referendum to reject the plan.
The defeat has led to calls from outside Fine Gael for Kenny to step down as PM.
And he is also to come under pressure from with his own party this week, particularly from Fine Gael senators who opposed abolition.
Speaking from the count centre when it was confirmed the vote was lost, Kenny told the Irish Times: “I am personally disappointed.”
The Irish PM told the paper he would now reflect on the outcome and consider how the Seanad could be made an ‘effective contributor’ to the changes the Government is seeking to make to the political system.
Kenny added: “The people decided Seanad Éireann (Senate) should be retained, naturally I was personally disappointed but I fully respect and accept the outcome.
“Sometimes in politics you get a wallop in the electoral process, I accept the verdict of the people.
“It is too early to say what the Government might do in respect of Seanad reform but I would consider putting it to the Constitution Convention.”
The Fine Gael leader added that he had seen a range of proposals but these would likely require another referendum.
He also said he had made a pledge to put the issue of the Seanad (Senate) to the Irish public some four years ago and that he had made good on his word.
“A process of change in politics will continue and it’s important to assess how best the Senate can contribute to that process of reform,” he said.
“Referendums are the ultimate exercise in democracy when the people are asked themselves to make decisions on constitutional issues.”
Asked about criticism of his refusal to debate the issue publicly with Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, he said: “It is not about parties or leaders or government but rather the people.
“I debated the matter in the Dáil (parliament), spoke to the media about it, answered questions on the subject here, there and everywhere and attended public meetings.
“People would love to have had a shouting match between party political leaders but that never applied in referenda as it’s not a party political issue, it is a people issue.”
Labor Party leader and deputy PM Eamon Gilmore said he was ‘not disappointed’ as the result of the Seanad (Senate) referendum was a ‘decision of the people’.
Gilmore told the Irish Times that the reform of the Upper House will be discussed more fully now the campaign is over.
He said: “This was a straight Yes or No, are we going to have one parliamentary chamber or two.”
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