An Ulster Unionist who unsuccessfully stood for the Irish senate has welcomed the vote to retain it.
The chamber, which was originally set up to ensure Protestant and unionist representation in the overwhelmingly Catholic and nationalist new Irish Free State, was given an unexpected reprieve on Saturday, despite opinion polls suggesting the public would vote to abolish it.
Mr Dudgeon, a member of the UUP’s Haass talks team, said: “I’m very pleased that the Senate survived because it does allow space for a small dissenting opinion in southern society, either home-grown dissenters or people from Northern Ireland.”
The retired civil servant said he was surprised by the result: “I thought it was a loser in the early stages and then when I read the opinion polls I thought it was doomed.
“The result shows that people are not quite as populist as they are thought to be.”
However, although Mr Dudgeon himself stood for the Seanad, he said that it would be “quite improper” to reform it in a way to bring in greater Northern Ireland representation. Mr Dudgeon said that would “fly in the face” of the Good Friday Agreement, which recognised that Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK while a majority wish that to be so.
In a letter to the News Letter last week, independent senator Sean Barrett argued strongly against the chamber being abolished, highlighting how it had been served by “many fine members from Northern Ireland including Martin McAleese, Sam McAughtry, Gordon Wilson, Seamus Mallon, John Robb and Brid Rogers”.