Fine Gael and Labour warn against complacency over Seanad opinion poll lead

Abolitionist pulls ahead but supporters of upper house insist there is still time to sway voters

Regina Doherty said abolishing the Seanad would save €5 million   in severance payments to Senators over every Dáil term.

Regina Doherty said abolishing the Seanad would save €5 million in severance payments to Senators over every Dáil term.


Fine Gael and Labour warned against any complacency in their Seanad referendum effort after an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll put abolitionists well in the lead going into the final phase of the campaign.

Seanad supporters insisted, however, that there was still time to sway voters in favour of retaining the Upper House when they go to polls on Friday.

With campaigners on both sides reporting a high degree of public indifference on the canvass, there is concern across the political spectrum about the possibility of a low turnout.

The poll indicates abolition is backed by 62 per cent when undecided respondents are excluded, and 38 per cent favour retaining the Seanad.

With upfront support for abolition running at 44 per cent against 27 per cent supporting retaining the Seanad, a large number of voters remains undecided. Some 21 per cent did not know how they would vote, and 8 per cent said they would not vote.

“The mood is confident but not complacent,” said a Fine Gael strategist, who acknowledged many voters would not be deciding until this week. “There’s a very high number of undecideds still.”

A Labour strategist was similarly cautious, citing the necessity to get the vote out while recognising “differing views” in the party on abolition.

The argument within Fianna Fáil, which wants to retain the Seanad, is that the No voter is more motivated than “soft” support for abolition.

However, Fine Gael is particularly encouraged by poll findings that suggest the argument that abolition will save money is driving support for abolition.

Annual savings
In spite of consistent No campaign attacks on Fine Gael’s claim that annual savings of €20 million will be made, saving money was cited as the most popular reason for voting to scrap the Seanad in the poll. While criticism of Fine Gael’s position centres on the argument that scrapping the Seanad would not eliminate all the costs of running the House, the party claimed yesterday that there were even more savings to be made.

“By voting Yes to abolish the Seanad we will not only save the €20 million a year in running costs, we will also save an extra €5 million at every new Dáil term by not having to pay out severance to Senators,” said Fine Gael deputy director of elections Regina Doherty.