No Justification for Second Chamber – White Speaking at the Launch of Labour Party Seanad Referendum Campaign

The case for abolishing the Senate is that there is no case for keeping it.

We do not need two chambers in our parliament. One properly-functioning, directly elected chamber is perfectly sufficient in a modern democracy such as ours.

The State can do without a house of parliament that so few of its citizens know about, care about, or would miss. The role of Seanad Éireann is unclear and its composition and electoral process are utterly unintelligible to most people. 

Some are now arguing for a directly elected Senate. But there would be no point at all in having two houses that are both directly elected by the people as a whole. Apart from anything else, if both could claim the same popular mandate, how would a difference between them be resolved?

There is a view that the Senate acts as a brake on government power and should therefore be retained. But it is nothing of the kind. It replicates the Dail in practically every respect, especially in regard to its political make-up. It was constructed precisely to ensure that it would not be a rival body to the Dail, which is the “House of Representatives” according to Article 15 of the Constitution.

As we look to our future, after the economic catastrophe of the banking collapse, we need to renew our democratic institutions. A strengthened Dail is essential, but there is no convincing case for retaining the Senate.