Fine Gael will focus on €20m savings in campaign to abolish the Seanad

Figures for savings strongly disputed by groups campaigning to retain second house

Tom Curran, General Secretary of Fine Gael: he has indicated that it is finalising dates and venues for between eight and 12 public meetings around the State. He has also stated that the postering campaign will commence on September 6th. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tom Curran, General Secretary of Fine Gael: he has indicated that it is finalising dates and venues for between eight and 12 public meetings around the State. He has also stated that the postering campaign will commence on September 6th. Photograph: Alan Betson

Tue, Aug 27, 2013, 01:00


Fine Gael’s campaign to abolish the Seanad will largely focus on the claimed savings of €20 million and the fact that there will be a third fewer politicians in parliament.

In recent days, Fine Gael’s national headquarters has written to TDs and Senators setting out the full details of the campaign, which the party will launch in early September. A brochure will feature the slogan: Save €20 million, Fewer Politicians, Abolish the Seanad.

Over six pages, it argues that if the referendum is passed on October 4th, the State will save money and reduce the number of politicians. The document has claims that the Seanad will cost €100 million to run over the five-year span of the Dáil term.

“That’s enough money to fund 350 primary school teachers,” it states.


Figures disputed
Those figures for savings have been strongly disputed by groups campaigning to retain the second house, who say the actual amount will be substantially less.

In relation to politicians, the brochure contends: “Ireland has 33 per cent more national politicians than any similar sized country in Europe and is the only such country with two houses of Parliament.”

Elsewhere, it has made the point that “no other small country of our size in Europe has two chambers”. In that respect, the brochure is incorrect. Slovenia, with a population of just over two million, has a bicameral system .

In a covering letter, Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran has indicated that it is finalising dates and venues for between eight and 12 public meetings around the State. He has also stated that the postering campaign will commence on September 6th.

The brochure contends that the Seanad is undemocratic and ineffective. A number of assertions are made including that only 1 per cent of the population elected the current Seanad, that the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees guarantees a Government majority, that it does exactly the same work as the Dáil, and its main power of oversight is to delay (not veto) legislation and that power has only been invoked twice since 1945.


Oversight function
The brochure also outlines the changes that will take place in the Dáil to compensate for the loss of the oversight function in the Seanad.

Moreover it has promised strengthened new committees to scrutinise legislation and to hold inquiries on important issues.

“Presentation at an early stage will allow TDs to hear from external experts and community groups – to scrutinise weaknesses and improve the final laws.

“Other progressive small countries like Denmark and Sweden have shown that they can manage their affairs better, at less cost, with single chamber parliaments.”

The Fine Gael campaign, which was launched in mid-July, has been more or less inactive during August but is expected to recommence in earnest from early September.