Save Seanad campaign group raises €35,000

Democracy Matters group hopes to raise twice that figure for its campaign in the October referendum

Independent Senator Katherine Zappone: one of the Democracy Matters group seeking reform of the Seanad, not abolition

Independent Senator Katherine Zappone: one of the Democracy Matters group seeking reform of the Seanad, not abolition

Sat, Aug 3, 2013, 09:48

The Democracy Matters group backed by former tánaiste Michael McDowell has reached the halfway point in its drive to raise €70,000 for its campaign to save the Seanad in the October referendum. However, that sum is dwarfed by the €300,000 which will be spent by the Government parties.

“We’ve assigned somewhere around €200,000 to the campaign, which would be in line with recent referenda,” said Fine Gael director of elections Richard Bruton.

A senior Labour source said the party’s allocation to the campaign was €100,000.

Democracy Matters has collected “just over” €35,000 from supporters of its campaign to save the upper house, its spokesman Tom Rowley said. He said the organisation did not plan a lavish campaign ahead of polling day on October 4th, adding that any move to commission posters would depend on whether the group exceeded the €70,000 target.

While a ceiling of €2,500 applies to contributions, most donations have ranged between €10 and €500 and have come from private individuals.

About 350 people around the country have promised to support the campaign in a voluntary capacity. Many have contacted the campaign through its website, democracymatters.ie.

The group, which is a loose alliance of campaigners from various political backgrounds, claims no affiliation with any political party. It advocates radical reform of the Upper House to promote greater gender equality, transparency and accountability in the political system.

In addition to Mr McDowell, its leading figures include Senators Feargal Quinn and Katherine Zappone and former senator Joe O’Toole. Barrister Noel Whelan, an Irish Times columnist, and Prof Gary Murphy of Dublin City University are also involved.

Mr Rowley is the group’s only paid employee. A former journalist, he was spokesman for the late Séamus Brennan when he was minister for transport.

He and two unpaid interns are working from a single room in an office on Lansdowne Road, Dublin.