Senate referendum: A once in a lifetime chance to damage our corrupt political system

I don’t know nor care why Enda Kenny decided to allow Irish citizens an opportunity to abolish the Senate in a referendum on 4 October next.

What I do know with absolute certainty is that it is the greatest opportunity Irish citizens have ever been granted to do serious damage to the corrupt system that has betrayed and destroyed their country.

The Senate is much more than an exclusive club for the ruling/ privileged elite. It serves two other crucially important purposes.

It is an important visible symbol of the ruling elite’s power and it serves as an invaluable networking base to maintain that power and privilege.

I have no doubt that people such as Michael McDowell, David Norris, Mary O’Rourke and others are horrified at the prospect of losing this powerful institution that has, over the decades, been corrupted out of its original, legitimate use to become an exclusive club where political and business insiders look after each other’s interests.

The arguments put forward by the NO side are, for the most part, dishonest and ridiculous.

For example, the campaigning group Democracy Matters is asking citizens to vote in favour of retaining the Senate in order to revive the economy.

This ridiculous idea demonstrates the dearth of genuine reasons on the NO side for retaining the rotten institution.

The principal argument put forward by the NO side is political reform. Retain the Senate and we will (really, honestly this time) reform it to serve the people.

Well, we’ve heard that promise many, many times over the decades and 12 reform reports later we’re still waiting.

In 1979 the people voted in favour of a tiny, insignificant reform, the extension of the Senate franchise to graduates of all universities.

What happened?

Government after government, political party after political party contemptuously ignored the will of the people.

This elite club just couldn’t bring itself to share any power whatsoever with the great unwashed.

There will be no real political reform for so long as the corrupt political/administrative system responsible for destroying the lives of so many citizens remains in place. This will be the case whether or not the Senate is abolished.

If the referendum is defeated and the Senate remains in place those promising to reform the institution will, without a shadow of doubt, break their promise, it’s the way of Irish politics.

Instead, we will see the usual pretence of reform that will have just one principal aim – to ensure the Senate remains an exclusive club for the ruling elite.

The YES side led by Enda Kenny is just as dishonest when it promises major political reforms to compensate for the loss of the Senate.

There will be no substantial reform of our corrupt political system. The entire political system needs to be abolished and replaced with a truly democratic system that is publicly accountable and subject to the rule of law.

It is obvious that a great many people will be tempted to vote NO in order to punish this government or because they have given up on politics in general.

This would be a great pity.

This government will go; another will be installed. There will be no change; the corrupt system will continue to exploit Irish citizens as it has done for decades.

Any satisfaction gained by punishing this government will be short-term only.

If, however, the Senate is abolished it will send an earth-shattering shock through the corrupt political/administrative system. It will inflict permanent damage on the system from which it is unlikely to recover.

A vote to abolish will remove, in one decisive blow, a major source of support for those who desperately want to maintain the current rotten political system.

A vote to abolish could see the beginning of the end for the corrupt system that has blighted our country for so many decades and perhaps, just perhaps, set us on the road to building a new republic where politicians of vision and courage work for the good of the country and its people.

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