29 September 2013: The Environmental Pillar calls for a “No” vote in the Seanad referendum, and demands the reform of the Seanad rather than its abolition.
“Abolishing the Seanad leaves us to the mercy of professional politicians and uncontrollable Government majorities. The Government’s promised political reforms are far from clear or assured. We are being forced to “buy a pig in a poke” in this referendum, and give up the only paddle we have to steer Government on a daily basis outside of elections”
– stated Attracta Uí Bhroin, spokesperson for the Environmental Pillar. She continued:
“Voting ‘No’ is about ensuring balance and some real world perspective in the decisions which govern us and the environment which sustains us. A democratically elected and reformed Seanad would enhance the role it has played in representing broader and minority interests.”
Ms Uí Bhroin highlighted the Seanad’s role in many key environmental outcomes with the following examples:
- Many critical environmental amendments to legislation were only possible through the Seanad, directly or indirectly. One example was the amendment of the National Lotteries Bill 2012 to include ‘the natural environment’ as a beneficiary.
- The prospect of the Seanad amending a bill often forces the Government to make changes itself without acknowledging the Seanad’s role.
- A Seanad Adjournment debate summoning a Minister was the only mechanism available to clarify facts in time to launch a court challenge against the British Government’s decision to build a nuclear power plant near Ireland without consulting the Irish people.
- European Law has raised the bar in environmental protection in Ireland. The Seanad plays a key role in advising and discussing its transposition and implementation into Irish Law, and can be a key channel for ensuring the delivery of intended protections.
Ms Uí Bhroin concluded:
“The failures of the Seanad lie primarily with the Dáil who failed to reform it. If you hog-tie something can you blame it for hobbling? But that is no reason to abolish it, especially when despite all that the Seanad helps us protect the environment.”
Note: Whilst this statement was developed through the processes of the Environmental Pillar it does not necessarily represent the policies of all its members.