Abolition of Seanad could Pose Increased Dangers for Peace & Neutrality Issues Say Campaigners

Irish neutrality is once again a referendum issue as a number of prominent Peace and Neutrality campaigners come together to call for No vote on the amendment to abolish the Seanad. The group includes retired Army Commandant Edward Horgan, peace campaigner John Lannon of Shannonwatch, Professor John Maguire of UCC, Galway Councillor Catherine Connolly, Galway Alliance Against War activist Niall Farrell and former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna.  In a letter issued to national newspapers today the group warns of the negative impact Seanad abolition could have for the peace and neutrality agenda.

John Lannon of Shannonwatch warned that the abolition of the Seanad will make the adoption of EU decisions and legislation easier for a government that is determined to do so, even if those decisions are inconsistent with the stated views of the Irish people. Edward Horgan stressed that abolishing the Seanad will eliminate the chance of ever establishing a reformed institution that could scrutinise future EU military issues and will make it less problematic for Enda Kenny and his successors to pass controversial legislation.

Professor Maguire pointed out that, with the EU pushing for more militarization there is a need to increase scrutiny and accountability not support a decision that will allow for the easier passage of such decisions.  Compared to Scandinavian courtiers, Germany and many of the new member states, Ireland's has one of the least effective scrutiny systems of EU legislation.  A reformed Seanad could provide real potential to correct this weakness in Ireland's oversight of EU policy making particularly on military issues.

The former Green MEP, Patricia McKenna supported this view by highlighting the recent European Parliament session in Strasbourg, which approved by a large majority a report on 'EU's military structures: state of play and future prospects,' demonstrates that the further erosion of Irish Neutrality and the continued militarization of the EU are on the EU and Government agenda and will be made easier by the removing the threat of a reformed Seanad. She said it was alarming that all Fine Gael MEPs - the party that wants the Seanad abolished instead of reformed - supported this report. 

Niall Farrell pointed out that just because the Seanad has failed to promote peace and neutrality issues in the past is not a justifiable reason to support its permanent abolition.   The failures of the Seanad are the direct result of the failure and refusal of the political parties to reform it.

Councillor Catherine Connolly urged voters to recognize that this vote, to abolish the Seanad, is really a vote to remove the danger that there could ever be a reformed Seanad in the future, which could function as a real body capable of scrutinising future military and foreign policy decision as well as EU developments.

Text of letter published in Irish Times, 2 October 2013:

Sir, - We are appealing for a No vote. We believe the abolition of the Seanad will make the adoption of EU decisions and legislation easier for a government that is determined to do so, even if those decisions are inconsistent with the stated views of the Irish people. Abolishing the Seanad will eliminate the chance of ever establishing a reformed institution that could scrutinise future EU military issues and will make it less problematic for Enda Kenny and his successors to pass controversial legislation.

With the EU pushing for more militarisation there is a need to increase scrutiny and accountability, not support a decision that will allow for the easier passage of such decisions. Compared to Scandinavian countries, Germany and many of the new member states, Ireland's has one of the least effective scrutiny systems of EU legislation. A reformed Seanad could potentially correct this weakness in Ireland's oversight of EU policy-making, particularly on military issues.

The recent European Parliament session, which approved a report on EU's military structures: state of play and future prospects, demonstrates that the further erosion of Irish neutrality and the continued militarisation of the EU are on the EU and Government agenda and this will be made easier by removing the threat of a reformed Seanad.

This report, aimed at boosting efforts to further militarise the EU, calls for the creation of a fully-fledged EU military headquarters, for the strengthening of EU battle groups, for more money to be spent on arms production and research, and for a closer relationship with Nato.

While the report is non-binding, it sets the agenda for the EU Council meeting in December where further EU militarisation and increased support for arms production and research will be discussed. It is most disturbing to note that all Fine Gael MEPs - the party that wants the Seanad abolished instead of reformed - supported this report and only one Irish MEP, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party voted against it.

Just because the Seanad has failed to promote peace and neutrality issues in the past is not a justifiable reason to support its permanent abolition. The failures of the Seanad are the direct result of the failure and refusal of the political parties to reform it.

It seems the Government's strategy is to "to get rid of the Seanad quickly" before there is a chance to reform it in a way that would make any future government's task of passing controversial legislation more difficult.

While we all agree with the criticism of the current Seanad and the undemocratic procedure for allocating seats. If abolished, it can never be reinstated without a referendum, and the only body that can propose this is the government itself. Thus it's unlikely that the institution that wants the Seanad abolished will ever propose its reinstatement. - Yours, etc,

Dr EDWARD HORGAN, Retd Army Commandant & UN Military peacekeeper;

Dr JOHN LANNON, UL & Shannonwatch coordinator;

CATHERINE CONNOLLY, Galway City Councillor;

NIALL FARRELL, Shannonwatch activist:

PATRICIA McKENNA, Former Green Party MEP and peace & neutrality activist;

Prof JOHN MAGUIRE, Prof of Sociology, UCC, C/o Iona Road, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

 

 

 

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