Coalition campaign on Seanad ‘a gimmick’

FG says abolition of Seanad would bring State into line with similar countries

The Seanad chamber looking towards the chair

The Seanad chamber looking towards the chair


Fianna Fáil has accused the Government of running a Seanad abolition campaign lacking in substance and debate, but rich in gimmickry and soundbites.

As the referendum campaign entered its final week yesterday, Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said the public was growing “sick and tired” of the lies and dishonesty that had been spread by Fine Gael.

“They are really put out by what they see on the posters, like the €20 million figure, they know it is a lie,” said Mr Collins, who is his party’s Seanad campaign director.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has said the savings arising from Seanad abolition cannot be estimated.

Fine Gael yesterday held a photocall near the Norwegian embassy in Dublin to highlight its assertion that European countries of a similar size to Ireland have a third fewer politicians and single chamber parliaments.

Minister for Enterprise Richard Bruton, the Fine Gael director of elections, and Dublin South East TD Eoghan Murphy, arrived with a placard saying that Ireland had 49.1 national politicians per million of population compared to a European average of 33.5 politicians per million.

“If we look to our European counterparts it is clear that best practice in other successful small countries is to have one strong, effective chamber of parliament representing 100 per cent of the people,” Mr Bruton said. “If the Seanad is abolished, and taking into account the reduction of eight TDs after the next election, the number of national politicians here will be reduced to 158. This is much more in line with other European countries of Ireland’s size.”

‘Silly politics’
Mr Collins said the Fine Gael photocall highlighted that the party was “engaged in real gimmick, stunt-type politics” on the issue. “It’s silly politics and people are also put out by the amount of money Fine Gael seem to be throwing at this particular campaign,” he added.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said he still did no know if the Taoiseach would be participating in an RTÉ Prime Time debate with him on Seanad abolition next Tuesday.

“The Taoiseach made this his core initiative . . . It’s a serious and profound change to the Constitution and I hope he will respond positively to the Prime Time debate,” he said.

Mr Martin said the public wanted to see politicians who were prepared to discuss “the substance of an issue as opposed to just soundbites and gimmicks”.

Should the Seanad be abolished, Mr Martin said, Ireland would have a political system unlike any other in the world as it would combine weak local government with a single chamber parliament that was “completely under the thumb of government and a small group of ministers”.

Minimal savings
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the potential abolition of the Seanad could see the second tier of our democracy being abolished in the cause of minimal savings.

He described the €20 million savings cited by the Government as the main reason for the abolition of the Seanad as “nonsense”, describing them as a “crumb in the beard of James Reilly’s budget”.

He said the amount spent on the Seanad is 0.037 per cent of the overall voted expenditure.