New Chance Saloon

As a rule I tend not to like second houses, detecting within them something inherently undemocratic. I regard them a toff way of blocking moves considered either too radical or disadvantageous to the privileged. Perhaps that was based on having watched proceedings in the British House of Lords, in which tangible proof of life after death is in abundant supply, and where reaction trumps progress as naturally as Manchester rain. Yet as part of an integrated body politic equipped with the requisite scrutinising mechanism, and properly utilised, a second house can function to help separate powers – at least more so than an indivisible single house can plausibly claim to do on its own.

The outcome of last week’s referendum on the future of the Seanad was a damning verdict for the right wing government in Dublin. Nor is it a good one for Sinn Fein who missed the ‘Good Ship Opposition’ and set sail instead aboard a destroyer determined to reduce the Seanad to the status of the General Belgrano. While it has blurred the pseudo distinction it had fostered in the public mind that it was in some way substantially different from the austerity admiralty, it will not however be anywhere near as holed beneath the waterline as the coalition. For, after the electorate, a buoyant Fianna Fail is the clear victor, having judged better than most the public mood.

Usually I vote losers. Like a moth to the flame they are just what I tend to pick. This time I was on the winning side. In addition to voting to retain the Seanad, I put my X in favour of a new appeal court. Having long experienced the dubious joys of being an appellant in both the US and the North, anything that makes appeals easier and quicker must have some merit. The length of time it takes people to have their case brought before the Dublin Supreme Court is prohibitive. The new court arrangement might help expedite matters. Now we must wait and see if there is a hidden agenda as suggested by some.

Prior to casting my vote later in the evening I took a morning call from my wife while browsing through books in town, suggesting I drop by the bookies on my way back and put something on a no vote to Seanad abolition. Apart from a euro flutter each week on a soccer accumulator for my son who picks his teams meticulously we don’t gamble. I more or less told her if I had a few hundred thousand stashed away beneath my bath tub I would lash a chunk of it on a yes vote. It seemed such a certainty that I more or less dismissed her with don’t be an idiot in the way that spouses can do with each other without causing offence. Who is in the corner wearing the dunce’s cap now? Moi. She got it right and has not exercised constraint in exercising her bragging rights. But it has been known for a long time where the real brains are in this partnership.

This vote suggests that a second house continues to be needed because the public doesn’t trust the first. I initially intended to vote for abolition because of my instinctive mistrust of a second house. Sinn Fein advocating a yes vote certainly led me to think that scrutiny was the thing it most wanted abolished. A party that is prepared to cover for its own leader’s far from sagacious handling of a child rape case is arguably in need of public scrutiny more than most. Still it was not enough to make me change my mind.

It was Michael Martin’s firm urging for a vote in favour of retaining the Seanad that won me over. He had been prepared to stand over his position and slog it out with the Fine Gael leader on live television; a willingness not reciprocated. While I am by no stretch of the imagination a Fianna Fail supporter, nevertheless, here was a Dail leader whose party clearly had a lot to answer for yet remained prepared to be scrutinised by an external second house. No bad thing.

In our society Fine Gael brazenly wears the Labour Party as a protective condom while screwing the poorest in a winner takes all game of austerity bondage. In such a situation the need for openness, transparency and scrutiny is more pressing than ever. Dail dereliction necessitates senatorial scrutiny. Good old Brecht: the people have voted, the bastards.

Meanwhile, I guess I will continue to have the last word in this house from here on in – ‘yes love.’


  1. Havent given that much thought to the upper house Anthony,but I do know the lower house couldnt go any lower, apart from Clare Daly and a very few independents the whole fucking lot should be shipped of to Germany where they seem to have their loyalty to.

  2. If the Upper House Vote had went the other way, then, no one could hold the Government to task for wrong doing , or , forcing a vote to suit themselves through the Lower House.

    Seanad is of the utmost importance to keep track and rebuke if needed the lower House. Maybe SF think they are going to get into government and don't want the Seanad to stand in their way!