As I write the result of the Seanad Referendum has just been announced.  The country has voted No to abolishing Seanad Eireann.  Reform – well that’s a whole other day’s work, particularly since Enda stated clearly that a No vote will not result in this Government undertaking any reform of the second house.
I am personally much cheered by the independence of mind shown by the Irish electorate on this issue. Against the massed armies of Sinn Fein, Fine Gael and Labour we had only Fianna Fail as a party urging a ‘No’ vote.  Fianna Fail, who are still taking baby steps back towards their rehabilitation with the electorate, certainly seemed to have judged the zeitgeist just right.  But it would be foolish for Michael Martin or any of his colleagues to get too excited about the victory of their side over the Government parties and the only other party of opposition in this referendum.  In my opinion although Martin performed ably during the two TV debates, this is not his victory. 
What is important about the result of the Seanad referendum was the range of independent, credible and passionate voices on the No side.  Probably most prominent of these was Professor John Crowne whose insightful intelligent contributions were hugely important in this debate.  Senator Katherine Zappone was another voice who articulated her view with zeal and enthusiasm.  Duirmuid Ferriter too and in the latter days of the campaign poet Theo Dorgan also spoke out to retain the Seanad.   
Political parties would be wise to learn that the electorate of this country are not stupid.  We don’t like being bullied into making a decision on a matter that no one was campaigning about.  We were cajoled into believing that abolishing the second house would save us €20m and allow us to enjoy sacking a load of politicians.  As a nation of bullshitters, we see right through bullshit.
As we stand at the beginning of the decade of commemoration of the events which lead to Ireland gaining her freedom, it is heartening to know that we continue to value that freedom and our democracy.  We might be a bit slow to protest against unfair austerity but we have shown that we do cherish the very freedom that the last Government pawned in order to pay the gambling debts of a bust bank. 

So Michael Martin – you judged it right and you ran a good campaign.  But this is not your victory.  The victory is the peoples.  And the people, mirroring events almost a century ago were led by academics, thinkers, poets and doctors.  What we need now are new political leaders.  If this folly of a referendum is to teach us anything it must be that!

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Writing and Talking.... on the radio, on the telly and in the papers.


  1. Barbara, as a Member of FF, I agree with you fully and I know that Micheál Martin or Fianna Fail are not taking the full credit for this Referendum not passing and ensuring that Democracy does Matter. Although I must say that Fianna Fail and Mr. Martin are certainly due a certain amount of credit and are a portion of the reason that the 'No' side won, along with, as you correctly point out, Prof. John Crown, Senator Katherine Zappone, Prof. Diarmuid Ferriter, Theo Dorgan, as well as Senator Fergal Quinn, Michael McDowell, Senator Sean Barrett, to name but a few others, whom, in my opinion, contributed greatly to ensure that a Reformed Seanad is the way to go. You piece is a very good one!

  2. Excellent blog Barbara…. There is another constituency that played a vital role in this result and that was the Vote NO Twitter Campaign …FF were not even on the radar, Article 29 was very much a concern. With all the bullshit we've been wading through since the banking fiasco, this was about putting our foot down and demanding reform of both Houses. As you correctly point out this referendum was about freedom and our democracy, but more so; it is the start of a whole new regime – the peoples regime – we had no moratorium to contend with – and the last 24 hours were key on two levels; as a poll in its own right it was on the money…the #VoteYES brigade never trended once? However the #VoteNO hashtag was bubbling in and out of the trending sphere since Thursday evening, which I believe influenced a lot of last minute decisions – the arguments put forward on twitter were concise, waffle is limited to 140 characters. The potential to interact directly live with debates on radio and TV proved vital, Prof Crown's debating was outstanding; he showed great leadership. Secondly and saliently, the government (and others) underestimated the power of twitter as a constituent, no party affiliations, no hidden agenda. We simply wanted action and we got it, albeit by a nose hair. This is the start of reformation and the renovation of Both Houses. It will take some time. But it will happen. Welcome to the digital revolution.

  3. I don't think the media & the spin doctors especially have caught up with how educated a lot of Irish people have become since the collapse of the economy. This vote should not be underestimated, I woke up on Sunday shocked to hear the No vote was ahead. Shame on certain media figures who I do admire encouraging people to spoil their vote as they had seen it as a yes vote forgone conclusion. Also Ends Kenny has been let off too lightly, his spin doctors of course were right, he would have only made the No vote bigger than it was, but once again this government have shown Blair-esque PR spin & we as a nation can see right through it.

  4. I agree with what misebandia said about people not being influenced by FF. The outcome of a referendum will always support one political party's call over another; but should never be taken as an endorsement by the 'successful' political party. Far from it! It should be taken as a revolt against the 'unsuccessful' political party.

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