TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night pledged to abolish the Seanad, while at the same time welcoming his party's "best-ever results".
In what could be the last Seanad elections, Fine Gael took 18 seats, four ahead of Fianna Fail (14) Labour (nine) and Sinn Fein (three). The six university seats were won by Independent candidates.
Mr Kenny was in the unusual position yesterday of welcoming his party's new senators and planning to pick 11 more of his personal nominees, while also re-emphasising his election promise to hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad.
"This could be the last term. It is a matter for the people to decide when they are asked the question.
"It can't be abolished obviously without the imprimatur of the people," he said.
The Oireachtas Commission could not provide details of the cost of holding the Seanad election yesterday.
It is estimated the bill for allowing candidates for the six university seats in the Seanad to send an election leaflet to 150,000 graduates will be in excess of €1m alone.
But Seanad candidates are not entitled to claim back election expenses from the State -- unlike Dail candidates.
Mr Kenny has asked the Attorney General Maire Whelan to draft the legislation needed for the referendum to abolish the Seanad, which is due to be held before February next year.
He praised his party's performance in the election and claimed the party just fell short of the 19 seats it regarded as a best-case scenario.
Newly elected Fine Gael Senator Michael D'Arcy, who lost his TD's seat in Wexford two months ago, denied his party was now "riding both horses" in relation to the Seanad.
"The Taoiseach can't be any clearer in relation to what he has said. It's a matter for the people to decide and if they decide to abolish the Seanad, so be it," he said.
Mr D'Arcy said there was no chance of the new Seanad winning a reprieve for itself unless it was directly elected by the people in future.
"Most of the people would agree that it should be elected by the people, not by the political establishment.
"However, as the current structure stands, I don't believe it has a future," he said.
Mr Kenny now has the right to choose 11 people as his personal nominees to bring the number of Seanad members up to 60.
He said he would probably make his own 11 nominations for the Seanad following his return from the US, where he is attending a number of business and economic meetings next week.