Cash-strapped Ireland asks voters to close Senate

AP News
Posted: Oct 04, 2013 2:57 AM

DUBLIN (AP) — Ireland's voters have begun deciding whether to abolish the country's Senate in a cost-cutting move backed by the government and many opposition lawmakers.

The government's proposed constitutional amendment to close the 60-senator chamber requires majority voter support in a referendum Friday. Results are expected Saturday.

Proponents say the upper house, usually known by its Gaelic name "Seanad" (SHEH-nud), wields no essential powers and closing it could save taxpayers 20 million euros ($27 million) annually.

Opponents, chiefly in the opposition Fianna Fail (FEEN'-uh fall) party, accuse the government of seeking to strengthen its own powers by removing an upper house that scrutinizes and occasionally delays the passage of bills. They argue that voter rejection of the amendment would force the government to reform and improve the Senate, not kill it.