A CLARE senator has accused his party, and the Government, of lying to the electorate ahead of next Friday’s referendum.
Fine Gael Senator Tony Mulcahy said he will not be towing the party line in the referendum and will vote against the abolition of the Seanad.
The Shannon man slated his party’s claim that the cost of the Seanad is €20 million per annum. Fine Gael states the figure is made up of Seanad members’ salary costs of €4.2m, members’ expenses of €2.5m, staff costs of €2.1m, indirect costs of €9.3m, including ICT at €1.9m, superintendent at €1.6m, procedural sections of €2.8m and other supports of €3m. There is a further cost of €2m in Seanad pensions.
“The savings of €20m are a lie. My party aren’t telling the truth to the public. The savings are actually €8.6m and you have to divide that in half because you have to take out the USC (Universal Social Charge), the PRSI and income tax or PAYE. So the nett saving will only be about €4.5m,” Senator Mulcahy stated.
When asked about the motivation for this ‘lie’, he said Fine Gael “are trying to get a result”.
“I can emphatically and clearly state to you that the figures are not true. Again, when you explore these and dig into them, first you have the savings on PAYE and PRSI, then you have to look at the rest of it.
“This idea that you can get rid of the ushers, ICT and the other supports, you can’t get rid of them, they are all covered by Croke Park and the Haddington Road agreement. They are only going to be moved around,” he said.
Senator Mulcahy has no problem with holding a referendum on the Seanad but confirmed he will be voting No to its abolition.
“I have said it publically that I will vote no and I’m entitled to do that. My contribution to national politics, since I have been elected, I don’t have an issue with. I will be able to quantify that when I finish up,” he said.
The former Clare mayor added that some of the criticisms of the Seanad to date have been unjustified.
“The argument that no-one in the Senate said stop during the crisis, no one in the Dáil said stop either, including the Taoiseach or the Tánaiste. What they actually said was spend more money and I have raised that with the personally with the Taoiseach.
“You have to look at the quality of people you have in there [the Seanad]. You look at the John Crowns, the Fergal Quinns, there is a very high calibre of people in the Seanad and some very able campaigners. I just don’t believe one house of parliament is the way we should go.
“What has hurt me and annoyed me most of all in this campaign is this thing that those in the senate are of a lesser calibre than those in the Dáil. That’s not true at all,” he said.
Senator Mulcahy believes it is vital to have a second house. “I don’t believe in having one house of parliament. I don’t trust one house of parliament. This inference that those in the Seanad are any lesser quality than those in the Dáil is a misnomer as well,” he said.
The Seanad cannot prevent proposed laws from coming into force but it can propose changes to them and delay them by 90 days.
“The Seanad can delay legislation and it can amend legislation and it has made over 500 amendments since the start of this senate term,” Senator Mulcahy stated.