DUBLIN: Irish voters narrowly rejected a proposal to abolish the upper house of parliament that would have saved the bailed-out eurozone nation millions of euros, in a surprise referendum result announced yesterday.
Final results from Friday’s poll revealed 51.7 percent or 634,437 people voted in favour of keeping the Senate, or Seanad, while 48.3 percent or 591,937 backed Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s controversial proposal.
The turnout was just 39.2 percent. Kenny said he was disappointed but Irish voters “have given their verdict and I accept that”.
Opinion polls had suggested voters would likely back Kenny’s proposal to scrap the 60-member Senate, which had the support of the coalition government parties and some of the opposition.
The prime minister had described the upper house as elitist and undemocratic, saying its closure could save the nation ¤20m ($27m) a year. Opponents said the Senate should be reformed instead of abolished. Many Irish blame their country’s politicians for failing to properly manage the “Celtic Tiger” economic boom, which led to Dublin entering a European Union-IMF bailout in late 2010 after a decade of growth.
“It is not about parties, it is not about leaders, it is not about government because there wasn’t a government campaign here,” Kenny told reporters outside Dublin Castle after the result was announced.
“It was the people’s day and the people’s decision and that’s the people’s absolute right and I think from that point of view this is the ultimate exercise in democracy.” He said he wanted reform in the senate “and I’ll reflect on that over the period ahead”.
Counting on a separate referendum held Friday to set up a new Court of Appeal is underway with the result expected to be resoundingly in favour. Dublin hopes the new institution will ease the heavy pressure on the heavily backlogged Supreme Court