DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland voted to retain its upper house of parliament on Saturday, rejecting Prime Minister Enda Kenny's call to scrap a chamber where the likes of William Butler Yeats once sat but the government saw as redundant.

In a campaign that was backed by some of the opposition and not seen as a chance to punish the government for austerity measures imposed as part of an EU/IMF bailout, 51.7 percent of the electorate voted against the proposal.

Kenny had argued that the 75-year-old institution was elitist, undemocratic and promised its abolition would save money. Advocates for the senate, including the main opposition party Fianna Fail, accused the government of a power grab.

The 60 members of the Senate, many of whom have jobs outside of politics, have only limited powers such as the ability to temporarily delay legislation.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin; editing by Ralph Boulton)