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Local sparring on future of Seanad

Story by Laura Ryder

Monday, 23rd September, 2013 11:41am

Local sparring on future of Seanad

Marcella Corcoran Kennedy

Last Thursday Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen called on Fine Gael’s Marcella Corcoran Kennedy to remove posters encouraging locals to vote for the abolition of the Seanad, saying poster claims that the group’s cessation would save €20m were incorrect. Yesterday (Sunday) Deputy Corcoran Kennedy hit back at Deputy Cowen, suggesting the tactics being used show Fianna Fail has already lost the argument on saving the Seanad.

“The Fine Gael posters use the €20m figure as the top reason to convince voters to abolish the Seanad next month,” Deputy Cowen said last week. “Given that senior government figures have confessed that the claim is untrue, will she remove the party’s propaganda that proudly boasts this false claim in the constituency? Or are government TDs content to continue to patronise and mislead voters in Offaly and across the country?,” he questioned.

“Fine Gael is relying on misleading claims and threats to push voters into abolishing the Seanad next month. They are using dishonest arguments to mask what is essentially a straightforward power grab and attempt to close down debate. Voters in Offaly will not be fooled by these cynical tactics. I am urging voters to stand up and demand real reform by voting no on October 4.”

However Deputy Corcoran Kennedy hit back yesterday, saying Fianna Fail and others on the no side seem determined to trivialise the savings that would be generated by scrapping the Seanad. She said the only independent figures available, from the Oireachtas Commission, confirm that it costs €20m a year to run the Seanad.

“The €20m is made up of about €9m in direct costs, relating to salaries and expenses, another €9m in indirect costs and €2m in pension costs,” she said, adding that it will be up to the government to ensure the full savings are delivered if the upper house is scrapped.

“I believe it is time that we asked ourselves whether spending €20m a year on a second chamber of parliament, which is elected by just one per cent of the population, is really a good use of taxpayers’ money,” she said. “At a time when every other area of the public sector has gone through difficult changes, it is only right that politics changes too.”

Deputy Corcoran Kennedy added that Deputy Cowen’s party seems determined to distract the public from the issue at hand - whether the Seanad is needed. “I have not heard Barry Cowen come up with one compelling argument to save the Seanad: because there is none,” she said. “The Seanad is an elitist and undemocratic chamber, which is costing €20m in taxpayers’ money every year. Does Barry Cowen think this is a good use of taxpayers’ money?”

Eligible members of the Irish public will vote on the issue on October 4 next.

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