Letter to Editor – Referendum Smokescreen

Dear Sir,
I write to express some points which I feel are absent from the debate for the retention of the Seanad.
The savings will merely accrue in the salaries and expenses of Senators and staff which amounts to €8.8m p.a. Whatever about the amount, we won’t see the effect of the savings for at least 7 years. If the Referendum passes, the Seanad can’t be abolished until the next General Election, expected in 2016, then 60 retirement gratuities and pensions will accrue. The savings are further pushed out by the €14m cost of this Referendum.
The timing is a cynical smokescreen, turning debate from the economy weeks before a budget, surrounded by leaks of €3 billion in cuts and tax hikes, the most crass of which being Minister Quinn’s €100m attack on education.
The second reason this referendum is a smokescreen: it has turned the debate from how ineffective our Dáil is, and has scapegoated the Upper House. If we need to get rid of 60 politicians, have a referendum to cut the number of TD’s; they cost more than Senators.
The role of the Seanad is very distinct from the Dáil. The same people who are calling to remove the parish pump from Irish politics are campaigning to abolish Senators, the only public representatives in this country with no local constituency.
We’re not at all like countries that have abolished their second house. The fact is that we would be in a unique position worldwide of having: a weak House of Representatives, Government-controlled Parliament, a weak Presidency, indirectly elected Government, and powerless local Government.
This Gov. has a bad record on democracy having abolished Town Councils, cut the number of County Councils, City Councils, County Councillors and T.D.’s; reduced the Cabinet to 4 decision-making Ministers, and now want to abolish the Seanad while trying to proclaim themselves as the custodians of democracy. In fact they wanted to cut more TD’s but the Constitution wouldn’t let them. While all this is dressed up and called austerity, realistically it is proudly administered by a right-wing Government led by a right-wing Fine Gael.
In a practical sense, what this Government’s ‘political reform’ means for Tipperary is that from 2016 there will be 40 local Councillors down from 115 and 5 Oireachtas members down from 8! Moving people further away from their public representatives and reducing their voice can only be bad for democracy.
The third reason is that unlike Ronseal, it does not do exactly what it says on the tin. The proposal restricts the power of impeachment of the President and Judges to the Government; politicises the Presidential Commission, abolishes Ordinary Referendums and makes it more difficult for independent Presidential candidates to get nominated.
The cost of this Referendum outweighs the savings in many ways. I respectfully urge readers to get out, vote NO, and demand that the Constitutional Convention debate real Seanad Reform.
Is mise le meas,
Cllr. Gerard Fogarty
Cathaoirleach, Tipperary Ógra Fianna Fáil

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