Johnny Fallon

Irish Political Commentator

A Challenge to government on Seanad Referendum and Getting My Vote

According to reports we are to be bombarded by the government telling us how the abolition of the Seanad will save €20 million per annum. That’s a cool €200 million over the next 10 years. The campaign is to be about one thing, money.

Now as followers of this blog know, I am no fan of the Seanad. It is elitist and an institution that I have never had a vote in or much interest in. However, I am strongly opposed to its abolition. Why? Because doing that is in my opinion an even greater waste of time. The Seanad does not work because the Dail has never wanted it to work and prevents it at every opportunity. Now the Dail has decided to get rid of this thorn in its side altogether. Once it’s abolished the Dail can set up some nice new committees and think tanks and allocate some more expenses to TDs for extra work and so on over the next decade. Any idea of reform will start and end with the abolition of the Seanad; it will not progress from there.

I don’t like the Seanad as it stands, but it is hardly the organ of state that should be prioritised to such an extent for any failings. We should be focussing on Dail and banks and several areas of society before we come to the hapless Seanad.

However, Richard Bruton take note! I am not an unreasonable man. I’m a middle of the road Joe blogs who just wants to be able to pay my bills and get some decent level of services. A major concern for me has been the cuts to the care of the elderly in our society. Each year we reduce the services available to them, there are large funding gaps, respite care and Carer services which actually save the state money are being cut and reaching breaking point. But who cares about old people in the middle of a crisis?

I know what a difficult job it is to try take care of an elderly relative, I know the lack of dignity and respect that exists within our system and while it hurts me now to watch, it leaves be terrified of growing old later.

So I have a simple request. The Troika has not asked us to abolish the Upper House; there is no budget provision that can be made for savings to be put against debt repayments in advance of a referendum. Put simply, any savings will be accounted for by the government after the people make a decision.

€200 million over the next ten years could help an awful lot toward elderly care in this country. The question is do you believe the government? Is this figure real? Is there any prospect of anything like such savings? Before we vote in a referendum we have a right to know this.

While I intend to vote No, I will change that vote if the government is willing to put its money where its mouth is and prove to me that savings can actually be made. The answer is simple. The €20 million the government claim they will save, should be ring fenced and accounted for on an annual basis, if they promise to allocate this toward services for Carers and the elderly, then I will change my vote and back them.

IT is a simple choice. The government has stated that it wishes to make these savings in order to protect proper services to the public, that we must make this saving to avoid cuts elsewhere. That’s fine then, prove it to me. Show me your confidence in the figure of €20 million because I don’t believe you will save anything like that. Commit to this money being spent and accounted for each year and I will start to believe you.

I must admit that I do not expect the government to respond. They will probably say that it can’t be done or would be unique, but then so too is their move to abolish the Seanad for good and make so many changes to the constitution in the process. They will say that it will be part of general budget etc etc, but that’s not impossible to get around it’s merely a decision, and these are great decisive reformers right?. I suspect that not even the bondholders will see this so called 20 million saving; I doubt it will even go off our debt; the figure will be smaller and probably swallowed up by the Dail as it sets up new committees and jobs for the TDs.

I am happy to be proved wrong however. The government if it’s brave enough and cares enough can have my vote by making this simple commitment. If they don’t then we should all ask why they don’t. And we should demand to know where this fantastic 20 million will actually be spent.

Before you make up your mind on abolishing the Seanad in order to get that money, be sure to ask that question. If the government does make that commitment I will be happy to tell you all that I am changing my vote. Don’t hold your breath though.

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2 thoughts on “A Challenge to government on Seanad Referendum and Getting My Vote

  1. Margaret on said:

    If the government wanted to save money on the Seanad they could simply reduce the salaries and expenses which would give known savings as opposed to the €20 million the govt claims will be saved without giving us the exact breakdown. Paying c.€65,000 pa for a p/t job to people who often have significant other income is rediculous, as is paying Dublin Senators unvouched ‘turning up’ money (they say its for travel to the Dail).

    You don’t need a referendum to reduce salaries and expenses. How much does a referendum cost by the way?

    Of course the govt won’t do this, as cynical people like myself might ask why they are not cutting TDs salaries and expenses at the same time.

  2. Reblogged this on irishonlineradio and commented:
    Johnnys excellent analysis on opposition to abolition of the Seanad, why weren’t we offered a ‘preferendum’ choice that included Reform of the Seanad?

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