Seanad abolition a ‘dismantling of democracy’ - Greens

Savings to be gained merely ‘a crumb in the beard of James Reilly’s budget’

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: said the amount spent on the Seanad is 0.037 per cent of the overall Government  expenditure. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan: said the amount spent on the Seanad is 0.037 per cent of the overall Government expenditure. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Fri, Sep 27, 2013, 15:09

The potential abolition of the Seanad could see the second tier of our democracy being abolished over minimal savings, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has said.

Mr Ryan 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. “It’s just not even consequential - you wouldn’t even measure it in the overall voted expenditure,” he said.

Were the abolition to go through, we would be “dismantling our democracy, removing a second tier of protection of the citizens against Government control”, he said.

“I just think it’s incredible there’s no debate about that,” he said.

Mr Ryan said the “fundamental need” for having a second chamber was highlighted in the analysis of the bank crisis which said the big problem in Ireland was “a lack of voices, a lack of different views”.

He said a reformed Seanad should look at long-term issues, including climate change, and it should be populated by experts who “do not have the constraints of short-term political office where you have to worry about getting elected in five years”.

Mr Ryan was speaking at the launch of the party’s pre-budget submission yesterday which calls for a €2.6 billion adjustment in Budget 2014.

The party proposals included a move towards a basic income system and a call for loopholes in the corporate tax system to be closed to ensure the tax rate is as close to 12.5 per cent as possible, a move which it said would restore Ireland’s international reputation in this regard.

It also proposed that:

- the level at which persons and companies may claim interest repayments against tax for residential rental properties be reduced from 75 per cent to 40 per cent with a potential yield of €157 million

- tax relief on pension contributions be reduced to 20 per cent with a yield of €560 million

- the introduction of a financial transaction tax in line with other EU states

the carbon levy be increased by 5 per cent to 25 per cent with a potential yield of €120 million

- the price differential between agricultural diesel and road diesel be abolished

- the end of the temporary lower VAT rate on the hospitality sector

- an additional capital investment plan of €500 million which it proposed should be funded by a €500 million special dividend from the ESB.