independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Doubts cast on €20m Seanad savings claim

THE independent referendum watchdog has cast a doubt over the Government's claim that the abolition of the Seanad will save €20m a year.

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.

However, it will also keep the debate focused on the costs of the Seanad, which is seen to benefit the Yes camp.

The Referendum Commission published correspondence with the Houses of the Oireachtas, which said it was "not possible to estimate" the savings.

The Referendum Commission wrote to the Oireachtas seeking clarity on the cost savings arising from the abolition.

In reply, Houses of the Oireachtas finance officer Gina Long said the Oireachtas has always stated it was not possible to say the amount of net actual savings that would accrue if the Seanad was abolished.

Ms Long told the Referendum Commission to "include a strong caveat stating that the figure provided are costs and may not translate fully into savings should Seanad Eireann be abolished".

Fine Gael, in particular, has been citing the slogan, "Save €20m" as it highlighted the costs of the Upper House.

Fianna Fail said the revelation, "shows up the central claim of the Yes votes camp is false".

FG director of elections Richard Bruton said he welcomed confirmation from the commission, "yet again", that it costs €20m of taxpayers' money to run the Seanad every year, "contrary to what the No side claims".

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted the Seanad had been "hijacked" over the years by political parties, including Fine Gael.

Speaking at the IBEC annual dinner, Mr Kenny said the Seanad-abolition referendum was "part of the programme of change in politics".

He said the Senate was "hijacked by the political process and political parties, including my own".

Irish Independent

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