Thursday 23 October 2014

Bruton: no plans for reform of House if vote is lost

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

Published 23/09/2013 | 05:00

JOBS Minister Richard Bruton says there is no back-up plan to reform the Seanad if next week's referendum on abolition is lost.

Mr Bruton, Fine Gael's campaign director of elections, told the Irish Independent that reform of the Seanad was "not on the agenda" and voters had a straight choice to retain or abolish the Upper House.

The minister also pointed out there was "no consensus" in the No campaign on what type of reform should take place.

Mr Bruton categorically ruled out the prospect of the Seanad being reformed if there was a No vote. He said there was no offer of reform in the referendum as an alternative to abolition.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney was accused of saying the Government would reform the Seanad if the referendum was lost.

But Mr Coveney said he was talking about the Government's broader political reform agenda continuing irrespective of the result.

Fine Gael is highlighting the Seanad's failure to use its power to delay legislation as the referendum enters its final 10 days.

DAMAGE

The new focus follows the damage done over the weekend to the party's claim abolishing the Seanad will save €20m a year.

The independent referendum watchdog cast a doubt over the savings from abolition.

The annual cost of the Seanad was confirmed as being €20m – but this figure "may not translate fully" into savings in the event of abolition.

Mr Bruton launched a fresh advertising campaign yesterday, with the slogan: 'What kind of watchdog only barks every 50 years?' The ad highlights the last time the Seanad delayed a bill was in 1964.

Standing over the savings claim, Mr Bruton (pictured left) denied the party was backing off the €20m figure.

"I think we have to use every dimension of the information that we have to get out there. There is obviously the cost dimension, there is an effectiveness dimension, and today we are emphasising that," he said.

Mr Bruton also denied the €20m figure was misleading.

Irish Independent

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