The Irish government has suffered another setback with defeat in the Senate referendum for coalition partners Fine Gael and Labor.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny has been left with political fallout after the Irish people voted not to back his proposal to scrap the upper house of the Irish parliament.
Kenny’s government wanted to save almost $27million (€20million) a year with the removal of the Seanad (Senate).
But they were left with egg on their face when a poor turnout, below 40 per cent, saw a majority of the people vote against the plan.
A separate referendum to introduced a new court of appeal was passed.
The No vote in the Senate referendum has stunned party leaders in Fine Gael and Labor and also embarrassed Sinn Fein who backed the abolition.
The No camp won by a majority of 42,000 people after returning 51.7 per cent of the vote, a total of 634,437 no votes.
The defeat heaps pressure on Prime Minister Kenny, just over a week before the introduction of Ireland’s next austerity budget.
Trinity College Dublin Senator Sean Barrett has even called on Kenny to consider his position as Irish leader after he refused to publicly debate the issue in the run-up to the referendum.
Barrett said: “The Taoiseach went on a solo run and engaged in an ego trip. He clearly didn’t have the support of many in his own party and I now think he should consider his position.”
The No vote is also seen as a triumph for Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who campaigned vigorously against abolition.
Martin said: “The result is a complete rejection of the Government’s strategy of talking about reform but simply increasing their own power.”
Fine Gael Senator, Tony Mulcahy was deeply critical of the party’s campaign tactics in an interview with the Sunday Independent.
Mulcahy said: “The €20million cost thing was a load of bollocks. It didn’t take a degree from Trinity College to do the maths.
“This referendum is likely to cost €14million and paying us off would rack up another €6million. It’s not rocket science.”
Another Senator Catherine Noone said: “I was appalled by the tone and tenor of the party’s unreasoned campaign which was personally insulting to me and my Seanad colleagues.
“Some of the personally insulting statements that came out of Party HQ were very disparaging. One can only take such things personally.
“But there was also a lack of reasoned argument and I intend raising the matter next week. It was appalling.”
The vote was effectively lost in Dublin where all 12 constituencies voted to reject the referendum.