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Lisbon Treaty vote (the 1st one) the most expensive referendum of past 15 years

They told us we’d save €20 million by scrapping the Seanad — but it cost us a fair chunk of change to hold the vote.

Bertie Ahern campaigns for 'Nice' in 2002.
Bertie Ahern campaigns for 'Nice' in 2002.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

FINE GAEL, AS you may well remember, once claimed that abolishing the Seanad would save the taxpayer around €20 million per year.

But figures show the cost of holding the referendum to abolish the upper house wasn’t far off that amount.

The Department of Public Expenditure confirmed to Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell that it cost €14.4 million to hold the referendums on the abolition of the Seanad and the Court of Appeal in October 2013.

The total cost for 11 referendums held since 2001 is €118.6 million.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin set out the expenditure in an answer to a parliamentary question from Farrell:

June 2001:

Prohibition of Death Penalty, International Criminal Court, Treaty of Nice

Cost €11.1 million

March 2002:

Protection of Human Life in Pregnancy

€10.8 million

October 2002:

Treaty of Nice

€15 million

June 2004:


No figure available

June 2008:

Treaty of Lisbon


October 2009:

Treaty of Lisbon


October 2011:

Houses of Oireachtas Enquiries

Judges Remuneration

No figure available

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May 2012:

Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union

€14.8 million

November 2012:


€12.8 million

October 2013:

Abolition of Seanad
Court of Appeal


Regarding the unavailability of figures for the 2004 and 2011 votes, Howlin explains:

“The referenda in those years were not taken on their own but were combined and accounted for with European and Local Elections in 2004 and with a Presidential and bye-election in 2011.

“It is not, therefore, possible to give an accurate cost of the referenda as there would have been an extensive sharing of staff and facilities for the different polls taken.”

The referendums on same sex marriage and the qualifying age for the presidency this May will cost around €15 million, according to Howlin.

The costs include paying for polling station and count centre staff, and the distribution of explanatory information from the Referendum Commission.

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About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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