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Wednesday 25 April 2018

Lisbon Treaty referendums cost taxpayer €43m


THE two Lisbon treaties cost the Exchequer €43m, making them the most expensive referendums by far in the history of the State.

The first referendum -- held on June 12, 2008 -- cost almost €23m.

Its sequel, on October 2 last year, cost €20m -- five times the cost of the divorce referendum in 1995 (€4,497,000), new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.

It is also almost double the cost of the second Nice referendum which was held on October 2002 at a cost of €10,926,311.

The bulk of last year's savings for the second referendum on the controversial treaty came from a huge drop in postal costs for the Referendum Commission and the Department of Finance.

The Standards in Public Office -- which oversees the Referendum Commission -- confirmed that it had spent a total of €8.1m on publishing information for the public in the run-up to the two referendums. However, it managed to significantly reduce the bill the second time.

In 2008 the Commission spent €4,975,283 on advertising, printing, legal costs and other "public awareness programmes". The bill came in just shy of the €5m allocated.

Last year the allocation was cut to €4.2m -- but the bill came in at €1m less, at €3.13m.


A spokesman for the Commission said this was largely down to the way it had sent information leaflets to households.

"The Commission changed tack in relation to the task of distributing information to every home," he said.

"In 2008 we sent information to every voting household and that cost €1m in postage because it was addressed to individuals.

"But last year we just leafleted every home and the cost came in something like €200,000."

Advertising costs were also reduced by €1m thanks to the economic downturn.

The Department of Foreign Affairs spent €739,000 in the first referendum on communications, including the White Paper. A further €685,000 was spent on last October's treaty.

The Department of Finance incurred the majority of the costs as it deals with all the bills for the returning officers. This was by far the most significant cost at €12,863,520 for the first referendum, and €13,671,480 for the second.

Invoices from the Office of Public Works (OPW) remained largely static at €778,000 and €751,000 respectively.

The figures on the cost of running the referendums do not include the budgets of the main political parties and groups like Libertas, which collectively spend millions on posters, billboards and promotional material.

The first Nice referendum cost €7,232,173.

However, these figures are not directly comparable with the first Lisbon Treaty as two other referenda were held on the same day in June 2001.

And costs to the OPW are also not included in the Nice figures.

Irish Independent

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