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Seanad obsolete and useless

Deputy Joanna Tuffy bemoans a lack of in-depth analysis in the arguments to retain or abolish the Seanad (Irish Examiner, 24 June).

Why is the only passion in this debate the pleading of political insiders anxious to protect their own sinecures? The deputy clumsily contradicts herself in what she cites as the storied past of the Seanad. She begins by stating that the main reason given by the Taoiseach for abolishing the Seanad is that we have too many politicians. But she subsequently quotes the Taoiseach’s own words when Enda Kenny stated in the Dáil that ‘no parliament would abolish a house of parliament simply to reduce the number of politicians’. Kenny also stated the Seanad ‘has not worked’.

Deputy Tuffy advises approvingly that Finland, with a population of 5.2m, has five times the number of politicians as Ireland. But she neglected to advise that Finland has successfully operated a unicameral parliament since 1906 when Finnish women became the first in the world to exercise full political rights. Nineteen women MPs were elected to the first unicameral Finnish parliament in 1907.

The Finnish parliament consists of 200 members who represent 15 electoral districts and who are elected using the d’Hondt method. The d’Hondt system also operates in Northern Ireland. Does the absence of a second chamber in Stormont make the political process less effective, less democratic or more prone to corruption?

The cost of paying 200 Finnish members of parliament is €14.06m, which compares to the €15.38m it has cost until now to pay our 166 TDs. If Ireland paid lower salaries, pensions, termination payments, parliamentary leader’s allowances, parliamentary standard allowances and travel and accommodation allowances, perhaps we could afford to maintain more politicians.

But our State is sinking into an abyss under the awesome burden of the outrageous cost of remunerating politicians.

Deputy Tuffy reminds us that ‘brave men and women have served in the Seanad’ and that the Seanad helped to bring the State out of civil war 90 years ago. Is it not high time politicians’ demonstrated just a modicum of imagination to look forward, think pragmatically and act strategically?

The Seanad is an obsolete and useless busted flush that is as systemically critical to the nation’s integrity as the Late Late Show was when broadcast on black and white television sets.

It did not even have the basic capacity to control the abominable expense account claims of its own members whose very tenure was a political gift, not a people’s mandate. A unicameral parliament will mean that recurring media reports about senators facing charges in our criminal courts will become a faded memory, while fewer time-servers and unimaginative political sycophants with vague credentials will be feeding off the bountiful Leinster House gravy train.

I look forward with enthusiasm to voting for its abolition.

Myles Duffy


Co Dublin


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