Fianna Fáil Frontbench Adviser and Councillor Jim O’Callaghan SC says the proposed deletion of article 27 from Bunreacht na h’Éireann goes far beyond the attempt to abolish Seanad Éireann by the government.
Yesterday Fine Gael and the Labour Party launched their campaign to abolish the upper house. While doing so the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have emphasised that the question facing the people of Ireland in the referendum is whether or not they wish to retain or abolish Seanad Éireann.
Cllr O’Callaghan commented: “This morning the 32nd amendment of the Constitution Bill 2013 was published.
“Hidden within the detail of this Bill, which proposes 42 significant changes to Bunreacht na hÉireann, is a proposal that goes far beyond abolishing Seanad Éireann.
“Amendment number 26 proposes the deletion of Article 27 from Bunreacht na hÉireann. Article 27 is the very innovative provision that permits legislation to be referred to the people. Article 27 is entitled ‘Reference of Bills to the People’. Article 27 gives power to the people of Ireland to express their views on a piece of legislation which contains ‘a proposal of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained’.
“This article contains references to ‘both Houses of the Oireachtas’ and, therefore, could have been subject to proposed amendments in the government’s Bill to exclude all references to Seanad Éireann. Strangely, and without explanation, the government is now seeking to remove this Article in its totality, even though it has no bearing on the question of Seanad abolition.
“This can only be viewed as a further power grab by a government that has repeatedly sought to close down debate and reject legitimate challenge. In this instance, however, the attempt to grab power is not from other parts of the Oireachtas but from the Irish people.
“Article 27 and article 47.2, which the Government is also seeking to delete, invest in citizens’ real power to veto legislation that contains proposals of national importance.
“The government must explain why it is seeking to amend the constitution in this way and remove this right from the Irish people,” Cllr O’Callaghan concluded.