Monday 11 December 2017

Stop the name-calling in the Seanad – Bruton and Howlin

Richard Bruton
Richard Bruton

Fiach Kelly

Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton and Brendan Howlin have called on senators to desist from “name-calling” and engage in proper debate on the future of the Seanad.

Speaking on Morning Ireland this morning, the Jobs Minister, who is FG’s director of elections for the upcoming referendum on the abolition of the Seanad, said he knew there was going to be heated debate on the matter.

“I knew this was going to be a robust debate,” he said.

“Obviously it’s an important issue but I think we have to avoid degenerating in to name-calling and I think the debate has to be conducted in an open way.

“This was a commitment we made in our programme for government and manifesto,” he added.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin also said the Seanad debate will be robust but must not get personal.

Mr Howlin said it "shouldn't be one that degenerates into any personal animosity or personal commentary".

Yesterday’s heated exchange, which saw sexist language and ill-tempered debate in the Upper House of the Oireachtas, has attracted huge controversy.

Senator David Norris, and two Fianna Fail senators Mary White and Terry Leyden, compared Richard Bruton to Hitler over his “propaganda” regarding the Seanad.

And Sen Norris told the house FG’s Regina Doherty, who is deputy director of elections, was speaking through her “f***y”.

Ms Doherty has since said she will be making a formal complaint to the Seanad.

Meanwhile, Mr Bruton has admitted that savings of €20m from the abolition of the Seanad will be made “over time”.

The Jobs Minister said that half of the €20m savings will be made immediately if the referendum is passed. And our politicians in the Oireachtas will be cut.

But the other half will be “accrued” over time.

“We can mange our governance with one house like most small progressive countries do. That means 30pc lesser politicians and savings of €20m,” he said.

When quizzed on the figure of €20m, Mr Bruton said he was quoting figures supplied by the Oireachtas Commission.

According to the FG minister, the figures break down as:

*€4.2m in direct salaries to members

*€2.5m in expenses for members

*€2.1m for their staff costs

*€1.9 in ICT

*€1.6m in superintendent services

*€2.8 in procedural sections

The minister said the government has to make changes in the public service.

“I believe very strongly that politics in this country has to make changes like every other family and business are doing in this country.

“We’re amalgamating hospitals and councils – none of that is easy on those involved in any of these areas.

“But we’re doing it for a purpose and that is to do more with less. That’s the challenge for every part of the public service.

“Where we make savings, we try and release those to the frontline,” he said.

The total running costs of the Oireachtas stands at €116m, of which €20m is allocated to the costs of the Seanad.

While saying that €10m will be saved immediately if abolishment is approved, Mr Bruton said the other half would be indirect costs, but these would be available for redeployment.

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