Opposing sides in Seanad referendum step up efforts

Fine Gael standing by contentious claim abolition will save €20m per year

The opposing sides in the referendum to scrap the Seanad plan to step up their respective efforts in the final 10 days of the campaign.

With polling day on Friday week, Fine Gael is standing by its contentious claim that abolition will save €20 million per year.

At the same time, Labour dissident TDs Róisín Shortall, Tommy Broughan and Patrick Nulty called on voters to support the abolition proposal.

Political patronage
"The Seanad has been a huge source of political patronage which we can do without. Very few countries of our size have a second house of Parliament, why should we?" said Ms Shortall.


On the No side, Fianna Fáil took issue with the proposed removal of a measure in the Constitution under which legislation newly passed by the Oireachtas can be referred to the people if a Seanad majority and a third of the Dáil petition the President not to sign it into law.

The measure in question has never been deployed.

“Article 27 was an important protection inserted in the original Constitution at a time when democracy across Europe was under threat – a curb on the power of any over-enthusiastic Government,” said Fianna Fáil deputy director of elections, Cllr Jim O’Callaghan.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has said it is not possible to estimate how much money would be saved by scrapping the Upper House, saying it could say only that the annual running cost of the Seanad is €20.1 million.

However, Fine Gael indicated yesterday that it will continue to cite this cost and focus on the “key message” that abolition will save €20 million a year.

Strong engagement
"The message we're getting back is that there is now very strong engagement and people do want to vote in this referendum," Fine Gael director of elections Richard Bruton told reporters at Leinster House.

“They recognise that these are important decisions and we will be urging people to become more engaged.”

In the separate referendum campaign to establish a new Court of Appeal, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter dismissed the notion that the establishment of a new court would simply increase the number of legal appeals.

"I don't believe that's an issue," Mr Shatter said. "We know that there are enough appeals pending before the Supreme Court for them to take four years to be heard."

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times