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Taoiseach had 'no difficulty' releasing Seanad referendum documents - but he didn't

Enda Kenny told Micheál Martin he would forward information about the Seanad referendum compiled by a unit in his department to the Fianna Fáil leader but this didn’t happen before Friday’s vote.

Enda Kenny speaking to Micheál Martin in the Dáil twelve days ago.
Enda Kenny speaking to Micheál Martin in the Dáil twelve days ago.
Image: Screengrab

THE TAOISEACH DID not release documents compiled by a unit in his department that was set up to deal with the Seanad abolition proposal, despite pledging to do so nearly two weeks ago.

Answering oral questions in the Dáil chamber 12 days ago Enda Kenny told Micheál Martin he had “no difficulty” in making available information compiled by the special unit and even promised to forward it to the Fianna Fáil leader.

But he did not do this prior to Fridays referendum, which was defeated, resulting in Martin’s office sending a letter to the Taoiseach’s department asking for the information to be released, as had been promised.

On 24 September, Kenny explained to the Dáil that a small unit was established in his Department to handle the legislation for the referendum and related matters, consisting of two full-time staff.

This was in line with normal procedures where a government department is tasked with formulating legislation and information for a referendum. In this case, it was the Department of the Taoiseach.

Kenny said that the bulk of the documentation compiled by this unit related to the preparation of the legislative proposal and material for Oireachtas debates and said “all the information Deputy Martin has looked for is available under freedom of information and I do not have a problem in supplying it”.

Martin asked that the information be made available without him having to go through the process of freedom of information which requires an application letter, a cheque for €15 and a delay of up to four weeks.

The Taoiseach responded: “I have no difficulty in making available information that is available anyway. In fact, I will forward it to the Deputy.”

But this did not happen by the end of last week and prior to Friday’s vote.

Several queries made by TheJournal.ie to the Department of the Taoiseach about whether the information would be forwarded to Martin or made publicly available on the Department’s website or elsewhere were not responded to.

During the heated Dáil debate, Martin called on the Taoiseach to withdraw his claim that €20 million will be saved if the Seanad is abolished given the view of the Oireachtas Commission that while it costs €20 million to run the Seanad it is not possible to estimate the actual net savings that would be achieved.

Kenny said during the Dáil debate that he would not withdraw the claim, insisting: “These figures stand up. They are the figures set out by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission and I do not intend to reverse that.”

In his letter to the Taoiseach last week, Martin focussed on the €20 million saving figure – which caused considerable controversy throughout the campaign – and pointed out that the Taoiseach had said he would supply “information to me about the €20 million savings without going through a freedom of information request”.

“I have not received any such information and I would be grateful if your office could supply it as agreed,” he said.

Read all of TheJournal.ie’s Seanad referendum coverage >

‘Reflection’ the buzz word but Taoiseach and Tánaiste appear open to Seanad reform

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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