Francie O’Brien was a popular figure across the divide in Leinster House
Fiana Fáil Senator defied party headquarters to keep winning re-election
Francie O’Brien was not a noted speaker in the Upper House, making infrequent and usually short contributions
O’Brien was not a noted speaker in the Upper House, making infrequent and usually short contributions, but he was popular with colleagues across the party divide.
Former colleagues on all sides were shocked when the former Senator (70) was charged with extortion and accused of making threats in an effort to extort money.
Around Leinster House he was widely regarded as an amiable figure who, on occasion, insisted on buying large rounds for colleagues and staff who happened to be in the visitors bar.
Like most long-serving senators elected by the vocational panels, he devoted considerable attention to cultivating contacts with councillors who make up the electorate for the bulk of the Seanad seats.
He was one of a group of “professional senators” in Fianna Fáil who managed to defy party headquarters on a number of occasions and keep winning re-election to the Seanad by cultivating the county councillor vote.
The party hierarchy usually preferred to promote Seanad candidates with a prospect of later winning election to the Dáil.
O’Brien, a farmer, is a native of Latton near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, who began his career in public life when he was elected to the county council in 1979.
He served on Monaghan County Council for 24 years and was chairman of the council in 1986-1987.
O’Brien was elected to the Seanad in 1989 on the agriculture panel and was re-elected at every election up to 2011. He did not contest the last election.
By that stage there was a considerable amount of media speculation about O’Brien’s involvement in a failed attempt to rezone agricultural land outside the village of Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, for housing development.
As he served more than 20 years in the Seanad, O’Brien is entitled to a full senator’s pension of just over €35,000 a year. His criminal conviction will have no implications for his entitlement to continue drawing a senator’s pension.