The recent proposal to abolish the Seanad was poorly communicated to voters

The thirty-second Amendment to the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Eireann) Bill 2013 states ‘it is proposed – (A) to amend the constitution for the purpose of abolishing Seanad Eireann and providing that the Oireachtas shall, from the date of such abolition, consist of the President and Dail Eireann; and (B) in consequence of the foregoing, to amend otherwise the Constitution and, in particular, to amend those provisions of it that confer functions on Seanad Eireann or that are premised on the existence of that House.’ (Houses of the Oireachtas 2013) Having read this statement it is very difficult to argue that the proposal to abolish Seanad Eireann was in anyway difficult to understand or was poorly communicated to voters. The proposal was a simple yes or no vote keep the Seanad in its’ current format or abolish it completely and have the Oireachtas composed of Dail Eireann and the President.
Having discussed the Seanad and the Court of Appeal referendums with many people of varying ages of eighteen to people in their seventies not one person didn’t understand what the referendum was proposing – abolishing the Seanad, in contrast to the referendum to create a Court of Appeal which had many people questioning how will the appeals system work if a Court of Appeal is established and what role would the Supreme Court have if a Court of Appeal was set up? The referendum commission used television advertisements and sent a leaflet to every home in the country while also providing information online to those who wished to access it so therefore cannot be accused of poorly communicating the proposal to abolish the Seanad with the electorate prior to the referendum. However, on the day of the referendum much confusion was caused when the ballot papers for the Seanad and Court of Appeal referendums were very similar in layout, with the national broadcaster RTE reporting that some voters were unsure which ballot paper was for the Seanad referendum. (RTE 2013) This was an example of poor communication with the electorate as it meant some voters thought they were voting in the Seanad referendum when in actual fact they were voting in the Court of Appeal referendum or vise versa.
Neither the yes or no campaigns can be accused of poorly communicating the recent proposal to abolish the Seanad, with both campaigns having questionable reasons for campaigning yes or no, for example the yes campaign claimed the government could save twenty million if the Seanad was abolished (Fine Gael 2013) and the no campaign calling for reform without discussing any real alternative to the existing Seanad, neither of them twisted or distorted the proposal when communicating with the electorate. (Democracy Matters 2013)
The proposal was simple, abolish the Seanad or retain it as the upper house of the Oireachtas, the electorate certainly understood this and both sides of the referendum and the referendum commission communicated the proposal in a clear concise manner leaving no confusion as to what the referendum was about unlike the Court of Appeal referendum. However, the confusion caused by similar ballot papers for both referendums is one aspect of the referendum that was badly communicated to voters. Overall it was the campaigns both the yes and no sides took that was badly communicated, the lack of in depth debate and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s refusal to debate the issue in front of the electorate to clear up any issues they had with his reasons proposing the bill in the first place and why he insisted on it’s abolishment instead of considering reform that showed disrespect and poor communication with the voters and not the way in which both sides presented the proposal to abolish the Seanad.

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