Senior Counsel and Fianna Fáil Deputy Director of Elections Cllr Jim O’Callaghan has identified the proposed removal of Article 27 of the Constitution as ‘the most disturbing element of the Government’s Seanad abolition power grab.’
Article 27 provides that a controversial law, that is deemed to have been passed by the Oireachtas, may be referred to the people if a majority of the Seanad and not less than a third of the Dáil petition the President not to sign the law.
While most of the forty plus provisions of the Constitution are being amended to move power to the Dáil, the Government has quietly proposed to remove this right.
Cllr O’Callaghan commented, “Article 27 was an important protection inserted in the original Constitution at a time when democracy across Europe was under threat – a curb on the power of any over enthusiastic Government. While it has never had to be fully deployed, it has been used in numerous debates over the years to remind Government of the importance of working towards consensus. Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes used it in opposition to electronic voting, while Sinn Féin threatened its use in opposition to NAMA.
“The argument which suggests that because it hasn’t been used, it can be disposed of is a dangerous one. The fire escape in every apartment block is thankfully never used in the vast majority of cases, but would that seriously be deployed as an argument to prevent their construction?
“A democracy needs safeguards against the concentration of too much power in the hands of too few people. What the Government is doing with its proposal to abolish the Seanad is not only concentrate that power further, but also abolish one of the key safeguards.
“People wanted real reform of the political system when they elected this Government, not the concentration of power in an ever smaller and less accountable group. To demand real reform, people should vote NO on October 4th.”