Harry McGee Political Corresondent
Government candidates have comfortably won the two Seanad byelections prompting predictions from Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar that the Coalition will last its full term until 2025.
Fine Gael candidate Maria Byrne and Fianna Fail's Gerry Horkan, both former senators, were elected on the first count as the voting pact between both larger Government parties held strong.
Ms Byrne, from Limerick, won 118 votes out 202 on the Agricultural panel exceeding the quota of 102 by 16 votes while Mr Horkan won 114 votes out of 203 on the Industrial and Commercial Panel, surpassing the quota by 12 votes.
There had been some expectation that independent candidates, Ian Marshall and Billy Lawless (also former senators) might run the Government candidates close, and both were supported by Sinn Féin.
In the event Mr Marshall won 69 votes and Mr Lawless an unexpectedly low 52 votes, though there were more candidates (four rather than three) in the byelection for the Industrial and Commercial panel.
Green Party chair Hazel Chu, whose decision to run as an Independent candidate, led to a bitter internal row with her party, won 10 votes, which was expected.
While neither Labour Party candidates was expected to challenge for a seat, the party said both had performed strongly, with Angela Feeney winning 15 votes on the Agricultural Panel and Ciaran Ahern garnering 27 votes on the Industrial and Commercial Panel.
In all, there are 106 Fianna Fail and Fine Gael TDs and Senators in the Oireachtas which was over a quota. The two Coalition candidates also won the support of some Green TDs and Senators and perhaps one or two Independents who tend to vote with the Government parties when the Dail or Seanad divides.
Speaking afterwards, Mr Martin said it was clear the Government is strong and working together with purpose.
“We had a Cabinet meeting yesterday at which there was a wider debate and comprehensive discussion about the most important long-term policies including the economy, climate change, employment and education.
“It’s clear the Government is strong and has cohesion and is working together for real change, not just on Covid-19 issues,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said the strong showing of Ms Byrne demonstrated the Coalition was unified and strong, and he predicted that it would last its full term until 2025.