(MENAFN - AFP) Irish media savaged Prime Minister Enda Kenny Sunday after voters rejected his money-saving plan to scrap the upper house of parliament in the bailed-out eurozone nation, with one paper describing it as a "humiliation."
The Irish Times said it was a "big setback" for Kenny, who personally led the campaign to ditch the senate and whose initiative "now lies in tatters."
Another headline said Kenny had been "humbled" by the vote in Friday's referendum, in which 51.7 percent of voters rejected the proposal to abolish the senate, or Seanad Eireann.
Many newspapers pointed to the impact the defeat could have on the coalition government's annual budget due to be unveiled on October 15.
"In the run-up to a difficult budget next week, he has been thrust into a position of weakness," the Irish Times noted.
The political correspondent of the Sunday Business Post judged the referendum reversal a "stunning reversal for government, and for its leader Enda Kenny in particular" and said the effects would "reverberate for the rest of the coalition's term of office."
"It will make the job of governing harder for them, beginning with the budget negotiations still ongoing and moving towards an immovable deadline," he wrote.
Kenny had shocked members of his own centre-right Fine Gael party when he first announced his plans to hold a vote to scrap the 60-seat chamber.
Throughout the campaign, opinion polls showed his plans were on track to pass, buoyed by the support of his coalition partner in government and opposition party, Sinn Fein.
Kenny argued that closing the senate would save around 20 million euros (27 million) per year, and described it as elitist and undemocratic.
However, opponents disputed this figure and countered that the upper house was needed to hold the government to account.
The final results revealed late Saturday showed that 634,437 people had voted against the plans, with 591,937 in favour, with a turnout of 39.2 percent.
Despite driving the referendum, Kenny refused to participate in debates on the topic in the run-up to the vote and many commentators cited this as a key factor in the embarrassing defeat.
Kenny himself described the defeat as a "wallop" but has vowed to continue with political reform in a country still reeling from its loss of economic sovereignty after entering a vast EU-IMF bailout in 2010.
Many blame politicians and the political system for failing to manage Ireland's finances properly during the unprecedented period of economic growth before 2008 known as the "Celtic Tiger."
Dublin promised to undertake extreme fiscal re-adjustment when it entered the 85-billion-euro programme almost three years ago, later this month it will unveil the latest round of austerity measures.
The country remains on target to exit the bailout at the end of the year, the first eurozone country to do so, but growth is weak at just 0.4 percent in the last quarter and unemployment still stubbornly high at 13.3 percent last month.
This will be the seventh consecutive austerity budget containing tax hikes and spending cuts, with some commentators speculating that the adjustments could be harsh.
"There is a sense in which this result closes the first chapter in the coalition's life," wrote the Sunday Business Post's columnist.