Campaigners urging voters to keep the upper house in an October referendum on its future have attacked Government assertions that abolition will save €20m a year as misleading.
Former PD leader and tánaiste Michael McDowell insisted the real figure would be about €6.5m per year, saying that broke down to €1.60 per person per year.
Mr McDowell said that the immediate savings of abolition would amount to about €9.2m on the Oireachtas Commissions reckoning, and that this did not take into account such issues as the loss of tax revenue from the move which would reduce overall savings to around €6.5m
Jobs minister and Fine Gael campaign director for the referendum, Richard Bruton, insisted his savings figures were taken from estimates by the Oireachtas Commission.
“There has been some heated debate as to the cost and level of savings generated if the Seanad is abolished. The figures supplied by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission make it clear that it costs €20m per annum to run the Seanad, money which we believe would be much better spent elsewhere,” Mr Bruton said. The minister added that €20m a year could pay the salaries of an extra 350 primary school teachers.
“Abolishing the Seanad will reduce the number of national politicians by 30%; bring us into line with best practice in other small countries in Europe; and save tens of millions of euro which could be better spent on other public services,” he said.
Mr Bruton said the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission has listed the costs of the Seanad as €8.8m in total direct costs, €9.3m in total indirect costs and €2m in pension costs. Pro- Seanad reform group Democracy Matters said Fine Gael was intent on fooling voters.
“Fine Gael has arrived at the €20m figure by blatantly massaging the numbers and engaging in classic double accounting. They are suggesting staff and other costs associated with running Leinster House will disappear into thin air if the Seanad goes out of existence,” a spokesperson said.