OPINION: Irish Media Bias in Seanad Abolition Referendum

The upcoming referendum to decide if the upper house of the Irish Parliament (known as the Seanad) should be abolished is having a number of interesting side-effects. The poll will be held on October 4th.

Irish Seanad House may be abolished

On the one hand it is both a tragicomedy and a farce to observe those who are members of the Seanad desperately try to convince a near bankrupt electorate that they should be kept in their privileged positions. Rarely in the history of Ireland have the ‘working classes’ been afforded an opportunity such as this to remind the elite of exactly who rules.

The real irony of this situation is that if there is a low turnout at the polling stations (which is typically the case with referenda in Ireland) then it is this very apathy of ‘the working classes’ that may play into the hands of the elite, the professional classes, the legal professions, academics, business interests and politicians.

Simply put, those most motivated to lose something are those most likely to act. The combined sudden and surprising action of the Senators over the past few months has quite possibly exceeded the previous activity of all previous Seanads since the foundation of the State! It is just appalling to witness these privileged cosseted people debase themselves as they attempt to save their utterly useless and parasitic jobs.

The attitude of some sections of the Irish media has also been very interesting to observe. A series of Opinion Polls run by the Sunday Independent newspaper have been reported and re-reported by RTE (Irish National Television) and several other media outlets. The question ‘Should the Seanad be abolished’ or ‘Should the Seanad be reformed’ was asked in a survey with media outlets gleefully reporting that voters in favour of keeping the Seanad (either in its current format or in a reformed format) are rapidly closing the gap on those in favour of abolition of the Seanad. Trouble ahead for the Government! Jobs may be saved for those in the clique!

Very interesting.

Until you realise that the question being put to the Irish people in the referendum is NOT ‘Should the Seanad be reformed?’ but is in fact ‘Should the Seanad be abolished? – yes or no’.

When asked about this apparent manipulation Richard Bruton, the director of elections for the Fine Gael campaign to abolish the Seanad agreed that the question in the Sunday Independent poll was not the same as that which will appear on the actual Referendum ballot paper:

‘The Sunday Independent is not your usual Newspaper!’ he remarked.



With the regular newspapers apparently having their own agenda it was left to Irish bookmaker Paddy Power to commission a survey that found support for abolition of the Seanad running at 58% compared to support for keeping it at 42% (ignoring those who replied ‘dont know’). This is quite some difference from the poll by the Sunday Independent, breathlessly revealing that only 39% of those questioned said that they wanted the Seanad scrapped while those supporting its reform or retention actually amount to 40%!

Of course opinion polls are all in the phrasing. It was Dan Rather the former News Anchor of the US CBS Evening News who famously said:
‘Journalists should denounce government by public opinion polls.’
Some of his Irish counter-parts clearly agree.

Perhaps the last word should go to the bookies. Paddy Power bookmakers are currently offering odds of 1/2 for the Seanad to be abolished, 6/4 for it to be retained.

Maybe the ‘working classes’ will have a punt on the 5/4 odds with the intention of staying at home on polling day!

About the author

Michael Green Michael Green is Manager of The Information about Ireland Site

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