Seanad Referendum: Good days, bad days and some in between…

So, quickly the Seanad Referendum, good days, bad days, and a couple of inbetweeners

Good day for Micheál Martin. Picked the right side, largely for the right reasons. His obvious ease in publicly discussing policy (not typical of many Irish politicians) contrasted with the Taoiseach’s no show, and played a critical role in boiling down the Yes side’s 72% rating at the beginning of the summer. Leader of the party formerly known as ‘shifty’ made his opponents look shiftless.

Post poll bragging right: ‘We stood up for the Constitution’.

Bad day for Enda Kenny.

True the Taoiseach followed through on ‘a personal leadership initiative’. But as Senator Jimmy Harte quipped on TWIP (24 mins), ‘this could be the most expensive after dinner speech in history’. It certainly forced a long needed debate, but the proposition was composed solely of excisions without any package of reform. First serious misstep has been to hand control of the reform agenda to ‘the party opposite’.

Post poll ragging right: ‘You ran away Taoiseach’

Good day for the Seanad.

So as often happens in Irish politics, the unsuccessful ‘heave’ often rewards the successful incumbent. The House of the Oireachtas with the least democratic legitimacy has been given a new lease of life that will make it extremely difficult for its ‘opponents’ to launch another attack on it in the foreseeable future. The executioner’s axe falls instead on the young flower of Irish Unicameralism.

Post poll bragging right: ‘The people love us more than we could ever have possibly imagined or hoped for and we promise now that we will be much much better in future [‘the sun’ll come out tomorrow, tomorrow, etc..’]

Bad day for Sinn Fein.

Their big problem is that they seemingly had this one called right at the start, and then they flipped after weeks of deliberation. As second fiddle to Fine Gael they were constantly forced to explain they had nothing to do with the prime austerity line of Fine Gael. They over complicated matters,  lost and now have a problem on how to re-enter any future debate on reform. [Losing both Donegals is a worry too].

Post poll ragging right: ‘Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.’

Good day for Irish Civil Society.

Hooray! First plaudits go to Democracy Matters, since they took to the field earliest and in fact shaped the agenda long before the political parties even began thinking about it. But in later days they were matched in vigour if not in size by the One House team. Both field proper issue focused arguments in ways politicians with the countering demands of the day job never quite manage.

Post poll bragging right: ‘Jasus that was crack, we should do this again sometime, soon-ish?’

In between for Labour.

With a few noteable and energetic exceptions, Alex Whyte for instance, Labour’s soft Yes means that for once the media aren’t looking for red blood this. Like FG, there seemed to be as many dissenters in the No camp as official backers of Yes. They also dodged another austerity bullet when SF teamed up with the Blues. .

Dail Bar muttering right: ‘Ach it was a heims an idea, but we had to do it because we’re in the fecking government you see…’

In between for the  SDLP.

Nope. You’re right. They took no position at all. It fell to Tom Kelly in last Monday’s Irish News to murmur name upon name of Northerners who’d played a part in the Seanad’s history: Mallon, Hayes, Wilson, McAughtry, Rodgers, Robb. It was indeed a missed opportunity to get some proper political skin the reform game (bagging a tangible win over their SF rivals in the process).

Assembly Canteen muttering right: ‘You mean, we could have played if we’d actually thought about?’

Good day for The Constitution.

A good day, because in effect this vote was more like a classic Yes than a classic No in the sense that the Yes was about excision and disposal rather than a move forward.  It made keeping the Constitution intact a much easier sell than the media predicted.  The ‘surprise’ too suggests that the Irish people are not as cynical about politics as many in the media and some politicians seem think they are.

Post poll bragging rights: ‘Don’t mess!’ 

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty