Nine women among Taoiseach’s 11 appointees to Seanad

Traveller rights activist Eileen Flynn the only non-party figure among the nominations

Traveller rights activist Eileen Flynn is one of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s 11 appointments to the Seanad.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Traveller rights activist Eileen Flynn is one of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s 11 appointments to the Seanad. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Traveller rights activist Eileen Flynn is one of Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s 11 appointments to the Seanad – the only non-party figure among the nominations.

Ms Flynn, from Ballyfermot in Dublin, ran unsuccessfully in this year’s Seanad elections. She grew up on the Labre Park Traveller housing site. Since 2018, she has lived in Donegal, having married a local “settled” man, Liam White.

The programme for government said that at least half of the Taoiseach’s 11 should be women and split the appointments on the ratio of four each for Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, two for the Greens, with one Independent.

The Fianna Fáil choices are unsuccessful Dáil candidates, former Clare TD Timmy Dooley; former senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee and Dublin councillor Mary Fitzpatrick.

Louth councillor Erin McGreehan also wins a nomination. Fianna Fáil currently has no Dáil seat in Louth and will be hoping that Ms McGreehan can use the Seanad as a platform to become a TD.

Fine Gael has chosen Emer Currie, who was Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s Dublin West running mate last time; former minister for social protection Regina Doherty, who lost her seat in Meath East; Galway councillor Aisling Dolan, who ran in the general election in Roscommon-Galway and South Dublin councillor Mary Seery-Kearney.

For the Green Party, Kildare councillor Vincent P Martin has also been appointed. Mr Martin, a senior counsel, is a brother of Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin.

He ran in Kildare North at the last general election and will hope to win a seat there next time. Clare councillor Róisín Garvey, who is seen as loyal to Eamon Ryan, has been chosen, too. She ran for the Greens at the last election.

Legislation

The appointments mean that the Seanad is now fully constituted and can pass required legislation. including the renewal of the Offences Against the State Act, that had been held up for months.

The Seanad, which meets today, also needs to pass legislation proposed by the last government to assist businesses through the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

Speaking on Sunday, Ms Flynn said her nomination was “phenomenal”, adding that she wanted to work for all marginalised groups, but would never presume that she could be their voice.

“I can’t speak for black people because I am not black,” she said. “‘Nothing about me, without me’ is something I have always said . . . But I’d like to work with and bring people into the Seanad and let people speak for themselves.”

The number of women chosen is “positive, said the director of the National Women’s Council, Orla O’Connor, especially since just 22.5 per cent of TDs were women and 30.6 per cent of elected senators were women.

“And of course we are absolutely delighted by the nomination of Eileen Flynn, who has been such a strong, important activist on issues that affect women predominantly – like housing, poverty and disadvantage.

“Eileen will be an important voice on diversity. But we are disappointed that there remains no woman of colour in the Oireachtas at a time when we know racism is so present throughout society.”

Human rights commissioner and founder of Akidwa – the migrant women’s network – Salome Mbuga said she was “disappointed an opportunity to make the Seanad more diverse, has been missed.

The lack of a Northern Ireland-based candidate breaks with decades of practice, too, though Cllr Currie is a daughter of former Fine Gael and SDLP politicians, Austin Currie.