Seanad Election: Sean Melly - end of campaign statement

Dublin, Ireland 27 April, 2016:

Entrepreneur and Seanad candidate, Sean Melly, congratulated Trinity’s newly elected Senators and wished them well in the Seanad. “I would like to thank all those who voted and placed their trust in me. Naturally, I am disappointed not to have been elected this time however, I will continue to be a strong voice for the business community and Trinity College.”

“My priorities continue to be to strengthen the investment environment for entrepreneurs and to work to improve the quality of education at Trinity, which I will do in my capacity as Chairman of Trinity Business School and member of the Provost’s Council.”, says Mr. Melly.

“This was my first time running for political office, and I did so because I found myself increasingly identifying government policies that needed to be changed,particularly in the areas of business and education.”, says Mr. Melly. “I will continue to use my voice in these area to help improve policies and legislation.”

“Political campaigns consume time, energy and effort and I would like to thank my family for their support over the past few months. I would also like to thank those who nominated, endorsed and supported my campaign. I had a strong campaign team and I would like to thank them for their hard work over the past few weeks.”, says Mr. Melly, “I wish my fellow candidates good luck in their future endeavours.”

The abolition of fees for third level was a regressive step

Right now we are looking at a serious underfunding of third- level colleges – a shortfall in the region of €1 billion.

This figure, provided by a new Royal Irish Academy advice paper, Future Funding of Higher Education in Ireland, chaired byJohn Hegarty, must focus the mind and the Government on the risks facing our third-level institutions and their global ranking.

This issue does not just affect students, although it has a direct impact on them; it has serious implications for Ireland as a country.

Our third-level funding crisis is part of a global trend, in the same way that our financial crisis was part of a global collapse. This is not a unique issue, but is part of an international development, one that we need to address swiftly.

The Royal Irish Academy report highlights further issues that affect teaching quality and global rankings. By 2030, demand is projected to increase by 30 per cent.

Combine this with an increase in our student-teacher ratio, from 16:1 to 20:1, and we will see huge stresses placed upon our already creaking university system.

These statistics feed into rankings, which will depress our position on a global basis and reduce, or at least discourage, overseas students. Both issues go directly to the bottom line.

In tandem with these worrying developments, government funding has not just been reduced, it has been slashed. In the period 2008-2013, the public funding allocation was cut by 29 per cent, with no signs of abatement.

We desperately need principled, strong leadership to effect positive change in this area, something I believe can be done through the Seanad.

New funding model

So what do I think we can do about this? There are two clear steps that need to be taken.

The first is to move to a new composite funding model, in order to change the way our universities raise money.

Government funding is important, but it is not enough. Leadership teams in the universities are already looking at alternative ways to fund their institutions. There is no simple chequebook solution, but it is clear that a move to a composite funding model is required.

Funding Irish universities requires a spread of financial responsibility across State, institutions and students. The principal of consumers paying for their requirements is well-documented and we need to look at how to structure this.

Fees are a necessary part of the equation, and their abolition in 1995 did no one any favours. It was, simply, a regressive step.

This issue must also be examined in terms of the push to send all school leavers to university. For many young people, formal apprentices or similar programmes should be actively encouraged.

Quantitative vs qualitative

There is a strong case for transitioning from our current “quantitative” funding method, where funding is allocated on the basis of headcount alone, to a more “qualitative” one. Simply put, this will mean a better return on investment.

The other argument is that those institutions directly benefiting from our quality third-level education should contribute – by ensuring, for example, that corporations are encouraged to contribute.

Then there is the direct contribution of philanthropy, or planned giving. This source of funding is well-established in the United States and growing in popularity here.

At Trinity Business School we have secured philanthropic funding that underpins €70 million for a new business school.

We need to do this across other areas of excellence in our universities. The application of a business-like approach at senior management level of the institution is imperative to allow professors and students do what they do best: teach and learn.

More autonomy

The second step is quite simple: increased autonomy to those who manage our universities. As the percentage of overall government funding falls, government needs to loosen its overarching control.

It is important to university management to have the freedom to manage their institution, particularly when government support for universities is fast approaching only 35 per cent and consistently falling.

It is unrealistic to expect to raise funding from these other sources if absolute control of how it is spent rests with government.

FG rejects claims Kenny compromising Seanad’s integrity

Fine Gael has rejected claims that acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the party have undermined the integrity of the Upper House by asking members to vote for candidates affiliated with the party, even though they are running as Independents.

Trinity College Seanad candidate Sean Melly has written to the Taoiseach expressing his surprise and disappointment that Fine Gael “would attempt to politicise the Trinity College or National University of Ireland panels”, after the party wrote to all members telling them it was anxious to maximise its vote on the two university panels and encouraged them to support its three affiliated candidates.

Mr Melly, a businessman and chairman of the board of Trinity College Business School, said in his letter that the Seanad university seats had a long tradition of independence from political parties.

“If candidates wish to run on behalf of a political party it is their choice, but they must make that clear,” he said.

‘Need to be honest’

“They cannot be active members of, or receiving support from, political parties while at the same time declaring themselves as ‘Independent’ candidates. They need to be honest and Fine Gael should not compromise the integrity of the Seanad.”

A Fine Gael spokesperson said in a one-line statement that “it is perfectly legitimate for a political party to advise its members and supporters of candidates who are affiliated to, or supportive of, the party”.

In the last Seanad the Government was in a minority, but had 22 seats between Fine Gael (14) and Labour (8) on the vocational panels, one seat - Labour Senator Ivana Bacik - on the Trinity panel, and the support of a number of the Taoiseach’s 11 nominees when the election was called.

This time round, Fine Gael may have 11-12 vocational panel senators. Labour, which has said it will not be in government, will have a maximum of three.

Asked for support

In the letter to members, the party asked for support for Fine Gael Galway councillor Pearce Flannery, a businessman and pro-enterprise candidate who was “the only one of two Fine Gael-affiliated candidates running under the party banner on the NUI Panel”.

Fine Gael also sought support for former general secretary of the Progressive Democrats John Higgins, a party activist “who is running as an Independent”.

On the Trinity College panel the party seeks votes for Anthony Staines, Professor of health systems at the DCU School of Nursing and Human Sciences, “who is running as an Independent”.

Mr Melly, an investor and telecoms entrepreneur, said the Seanad was designed for those with specialist experience or expertise to inform debate and legislation.

“The independence of the Seanad must be maintained and its original function rescued and preserved, he said.

“It is unacceptable for Fine Gael, or any other political party, to seek to politicise the university seats, and candidates who call for much-needed Seanad reform must avoid contributing to its current failings.”

Sean Melly backs new television advertising start-up (Indo)

Powerscourt Capital, Enterprise Ireland and other private investors have injected €500,000 into a new Irish technology start-up aimed at revolutionising television advertising.

Powerscourt is led by Sean Melly, a candidate for the forthcoming Seanad election and chair of Trinity College Dublin's Business School.

The company receiving the equity investment is TVadSync, the brainchild of Ronan Higgins and Pieter Oonk, which was founded to address changing TV viewing behaviour. Melly is also its chairman.

The business taps into the 'second screen' phenomenon, whereby an increasing number of people who watch television do so while also browsing the internet on another device at the same time.

A February study by Britain's Internet Advertising Bureau found that just half of adults now see the TV set as the focal point of their living room, with 70pc reporting that they use a connected device like a smartphone whilst watching TV. This rises to 87pc among 16-34-year-olds. During TV programmes, over one third (34pc) said they checked emails, 31pc used messaging services and a quarter shopped online.

TVadSync helps advertisers to take advantage of this, syncing up online advertising with what appears on people's TVs. Last year, the company was included on Unilever's list of the world's most promising technology start-ups.

Urgent overhaul of Start-up tax system needed

Dublin, Ireland 5th April 2016: Entrepreneur and independent Seanad candidate, Sean Melly, has warned that Ireland must urgently improve the Start-Up & SME investment environment to stem a loss of businesses to the UK.

“SME’s are the backbone of this country, they account for 68% of total employment in Ireland and some 730,000 jobs but new companies are increasingly looking to the UK for funding and relocation because of its more friendly policy towards investment,” says Mr. Melly, an entrepreneur with over 20 years experience investing in, and working with, Irish entrepreneurs through his company Powerscourt Investments.

 “I’ve been working with and teaching Irish entrepreneurs for decades. I know what government policies are needed to help SMEs grow and flourish.“, says Mr. Melly, who has over the years become increasingly involved in policy formation.

“I was happy to support the Irish Venture Capital Association in their pre-budget presentation to the Oireachtas Finance Committee last year. One of key issues coming out of that presentation was the high rate of Capital Gains Tax in this country. At 33%, it is inordinately high, compared to our UK counterparts. I was pleased to see that Minister Noonan changed the rate of CGT in Budget 2016, reducing it to 20% for €1m of gain however, I think that the Government needs to go one step further. Entrepreneurs building a business are often taking high risks and this type of ‘productive’ capital gains should be subject to lower CGT.  I don’t believe this should be applied to ‘unproductive’ investments, such as purchased land that is lies dormant before being sold on. That is not productive for the economy and such investments should be subject to a higher or normal CGT.” “The government urgently needs to do more to improve the tax environment in Ireland for entrepreneurs and I am determined to see this happen.

Commenting on Mr. Melly’s work in this area, former Chairman of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Dr. Liam Twomey, acknowledged the importance of having good business people involved in politics. “I think that it is very important that all people in business engage in politics and Sean is a great example of the positive change they can bring about. Business people are people of action; they can spot the opportunity, identify the difficulty and easily find the solution.  SMEs are the lifeblood of every city, town and village in this country.  I know that if Sean gets elected to the Seanad, he will be a Senator who will be a powerful voice for this sector and build on the good policy work he has already achieved.”

Senator Feargal Quinn endorses Sean Melly for Seanad

Dublin Ireland, 1 April, 2016:

Sean Melly is honoured to receive Senator Feargal Quinn’s endorsement for his campaign to win a Seanad seat (Trinity panel). Senator Quinn released this announcement today:

 “Having spent over 20 years as a Senator representing the business community, I am delighted to endorse and encourage you to vote No. 1 for Sean Melly as a new voice for business in the Seanad.  Sean will be a strong representative and bring a business-like approach to decision-making.”, said Senator Feargal Quinn in his statement.

“It is a great honour to have the endorsement of Senator Feargal Quinn. “ says Mr. Melly, “ I am pleased that he sees me as a new voice for business in the Seanad. I have a huge admiration for Senator Quinn and his work in the Seanad over the past 20 years. He has had a significant impact on public life and has inspired my decision to get involved in government. “Throughout his political career, Senator Quinn has been a strong voice for business in the Seanad and has informed policy and decision-making in a powerful way.”

“As a businessman, Senator Quinn transformed the supermarket retail landscape in Ireland, he restructured An Post and helped launch the National Lottery.“, says Mr Melly, “As a Senator, he has made an immense contribution to public life in his time in the Seanad, introducing 17 bills, many of which became law. “

“I hope that Senator Feargal Quinn’s example will encourage more business people to get involved government.”, says Mr. Melly,  “ I want to be a voice for business in the Seanad and want to help to get things done through fact-based decision making, focusing on outcomes and most importantly, making a significant impact on the future of our country. “ 

Political parties & ‘independent’ candidates compromising the integrity of the Seanad and the University Panel seats

Dublin, Ireland March 28th, 2016 

Sean Melly, entrepreneur and Independent Seanad candidate (Trinity College), has criticised Fine Gael for asking its members to support so-called ‘independent’ candidates who are running on the university panels.

Fine Gael have issued a letter promoting a number of ‘independent’ Seanad candidates on the university panels, pointing out their Fine Gael credentials and affiliations.

“I am surprised and disappointed that Fine Gael, or any other political party, would attempt to politicise the Trinity University or National University of Ireland panels. The Seanad seats held by Trinity and the NUI have a long tradition of independence from political parties” says Mr. Melly, “If candidates wish to run on behalf of a political party it is their choice, but they must make that clear.  They cannot be active members of, or receiving support from, political parties while at the same time declaring themselves as ‘independent’ candidates. They need to be honest and political parties should not compromise the integrity of the Seanad. “

“The Seanad was designed as an upper house where those with specialist experience or expertise could inform debate and legislation. “ says Mr. Melly, “For too long now, the Seanad has been used by political parties as a crèche for aspiring TD’s and a waiting lounge for politicians who fail to get elected. This must stop. The independence of the Seanad must be maintained and it’s original function rescued and preserved. “

The Fine Gael letter says that ‘The party is anxious to maximize its vote on the two University panels …” It continues ‘If you are eligible to vote on either or both panels, please ensure you vote for the party affiliated candidates.’

It then goes on to list three candidates on the NUI panel and one of the Trinity panel.  Only one of these candidates is running under the Fine Gael banner.  The other three all state that they are ‘independent’ but are described in the letter as ‘Fine Gael activist’, ‘Fine Gael member’ and ‘Fine Gael affiliated’ candidates. The letter ends ‘Please remember to vote for Party affiliated candidates.’

“It is unacceptable for Fine Gael or any other political party to seek to politicise the university seats”, says Mr. Melly, “and candidates, who call for much needed Seanad reform must avoid contributing to its current failings ”


Sean Melly on Fossil Fuel Free TCD - Press Release

“I understand Trinity College is considering changing their investments from fossil fuel companies to other areas of investment”, says Seanad candidate and businessman, Sean Melly.

Mr. Melly, who is a strong supporter of alternative energy sources, sought clarification on this matter, following the current ‘Fossil Fuel Free TCD’ campaign.  Mr. Melly understands that Trinity has a portfolio of investments, of which only 2.5% are in fossil fuel companies and that Trinity is currently considering alternative investments for this part of their investment fund.

Mr Melly is involved with Trinity’s leadership, as a member of the Provost’s Council, board member of Trinity Foundation and Chairman of the Business School.

“I have been working with and investing in alternative energy companies for years, and I wanted to get to the facts relating to Trinity’s investments in this area” says Mr Melly.

Mr. Melly has long been an environmental supporter. He has been researching alternative energy sources for several years and has, for example invested in a green company, Solar Adtek, which is a provider solar power and LED lighting systems. This product is environmentally friendly and has zero carbon emissions.

“Investing in the alternative energy sector makes sense to me.  You are improving the quality of life for people while at the same time solving a real world problem. “, says Mr Melly

Irish Times - Parties agree minority government could not control new Seanad

The prospect of a minority government failing to control the new Seanad could influence Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to consider a coalition deal, sources in both parties have conceded.

While the Seanad has no power to block the budget it can hold up routine legislation for 90 days, which could pose significant problems for a new administration.

Fianna Fáil remains publicly adamant that it will not coalesce with Fine Gael despite pressure mounting to make a deal following the inconclusive result of last month’s general election.

A minority government would inevitably be in a minority position in the Seanad as well as the Dáil, while a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition would secure a majority by the taoiseach’s 11 nominees.

“Failing to have a Seanad majority could make life difficult if we were in government and in a minority position in the Dáil,’’ said a Fine Gael source.

A Fianna Fáil source predicted the opposition in the Seanad would make “endless mischief’’ if there was a minority government. “It would put us in a difficult position if we were the ones keeping the government in power in the other chamber.’’

The 60-member Seanad is made up of 43 members elected on vocational panels from an electorate made up of the country’s 949 county councillors, the 158 members of the new Dáil and members of the outgoing Seanad.

University panels

Six Senators are elected by the two university panels, three by graduates of Trinity College and three by graduates of the National University of Ireland. The remaining 11 are appointed by the taoiseach of the day.

A Seanad without a government majority would likely elect an opposition member to the coveted post of cathaoirleach, further complicating matters.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that, unlike in the aftermath of the 2011 general election, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and party headquarters have not opposed the nomination of long-serving career Senators in favour of candidates being groomed to win Dáil seats.

Back then Senators resisted Mr Martin’s attempts to get them to stand down after the party’s disastrous general election when the party was anxious to rebuild in several constituencies with young Senators with Dáil ambitions. It led to considerable tension between the Senators and Mr Martin at the time.

With the retirement of Fianna Fáil Senators Jim WalshMary White and Labhras 0 Murchu, the departure of Averil Power from the party, and the election to the Dáil of Senators Thomas Byrne,Darragh O’Brien and Marc MacSharry, the way is clear for new blood

Fianna Fáil contenders include unsuccessful general election candidates Colm Keaveney, who lost his Galway East seat; Mary Fitzpatrick (Dublin Central); Catherine Ardagh (Dublin South Central); Jennifer Murnane O’Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny); Lorraine Clifford Lee (Dublin-Fingal); Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West) Connie-Gerety Quinn (Longford-Westmeath) and Daithi de Roiste (Dublin South Central).

Nominations for the university panels have closed, while those for the vocational panels close today. Ballot papers for the vocational panels will be issued on April 11th, with the poll closing at 11am onApril 25th. Ballot papers for the university constituencies will be issued today , with the poll closing at 11am on April 26th.


Sean Melly - UK new budget business tax cuts could damage Ireland’s investment environment.

Press release 18.3.16


“Already Ireland is feeling the first drafty breeze of a potential chasm which may develop if the UK leaves the European Union.”, says Mr. Sean Melly, serial entrepreneur and Seanad candidate. “This UK budget tax package is a statement of intent by the UK.  In their efforts to have a ‘plan B’ ready for a possible exit from the European Union, the UK government is offering a package of tax incentives which could damage the Irish investment environment.”

“Most worrying is the reduction of the UK capital gains tax (CGT) from 28% to 20%. It is still 33% in Ireland. “, says Mr. Melly, “ This means that Irish entrepreneurs can move their centre of control to the UK, losing businesses, jobs and tax revenue.”

“I’m in favour of reducing CGT in Ireland for ‘productive’ capital gains, for example, people starting and building a business and taking risks need a lower rate ofCGT, but this shouldn’t apply to unproductive investments, like sitting on land for years. In the late 1990s, Charlie McCreevy dropped Irish CGT to 20% and actually increased CGT revenue, so this move may not mean lost tax revenue.“

While others are concerned about the UK’s proposed reduced corporation tax rates, Mr. Melly is less worried about them. The UK has been steadily reducing the corporation tax rate from 30% in 2008 to just 17% this week.  This compares with Ireland’s attractive 12.5% corporation tax rate, which has succeeded in attracting major employers like Pfizer and Apple.

“But these are ‘headline’ tax rates.”, says Mr Melly, “In reality Ireland’s effective tax rate is in single figures. While a UK exit from the EU would be bad news for Ireland in general terms, ironically, Ireland could actually offer an even more attractive proposition for multi-national corporations with EU access and low corporation rates. “

Sean Melly, entrepreneur and businessman is standing as a Seanad candidate on the TCD panel. He believes there should be more experienced business people in government and he wants to be a voice for business in the Seanad.