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Kenny pledges to abolish the Seanad

Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny has dramatically pledged to abolish the Seanad and reduce the number of TDs by 20 if his party gets into government.

At the party's annual presidential dinner at Citywest, Mr Kenny said the retention of the upper house can no longer be justified, and the measures will save €30m a year or €150m over a full term of government.

In front of 1,300 guests, Mr Kenny said that if elected Taoiseach he will put a referendum to the people within 12 months to enable his reforms.

He said if the political class is to ask the country to take a "serious hit" in terms of pay and living standards, then it too must share the pain and the reforms suggested are badly needed.

"I don't want Fine Gael to simply talk about change. I want to demonstrate that we mean what we say. To persuade the electorate that we are serious about change, we ourselves have to embody that change," he told guests.

When asked what prompted Mr Kenny's new approach a senior party figure said: "Enda has been around for a long time and has seen it all. As Father of the Dail, he knows its strengths and weaknesses. He feels these reforms are totally necessary."

It is unlikely that the current FG members of the Seanad will be happy with the prospect of losing their positions, but another likely source of tension for Mr Kenny is his desire to reduce the number of Dail deputies from its current number of 166 to 144.

"We will also review the electoral system with a view to allowing for the election of a limited number of people with particular expertise gained outside politics," he said.

Mr Kenny has charged environment spokesman Phil Hogan with taking charge of the political reform agenda and to spearhead an agenda of devolving power to strong regional authorities.

The pay of senior ministers is out of line with their counterparts in other countries and "must be dramatically cut", he said.

He also called for a dramatic reform of the current expenses system, whereby many of the claims are largely tax free and unvouched.

Sunday Independent