Coronavirus: Seanad election candidates halt face-to-face canvassing

National campaign for upper house sees candidates traverse State to meet voters personally

Seanad election candidates have stoppedface-to-face canvassing. File photograph: Alan Betson

Seanad election candidates have stoppedface-to-face canvassing across the country because of the coronavirus crisis.

Many but not all contestants had ceased canvassing following the Government’s announcement of unprecedented measures to limit the spread of the disease, also known as Covid-19.

In a message to the party’s candidates Fine Gael director of elections Paschal Donohoe advised them to “stop one to one canvassing and minimise their contact with the electorate to telephone and email”.

Sinn Féin director of elections Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that following a meeting on Thursday evening the party agreed its candidates should stop direct canvassing.


Retiring Labour senator Kevin Humphreys, joint co-ordinator of the party’s campaign said their members had already stopped face-to-face campaigning.

Unlike the Dáil the Seanad election is a national and not a constituency-based campaign.

The total electorate for the 43 seats on five vocational panels representing sectoral interests is just 1,161.

The voters are the outgoing Seanad of 60 members, the incoming Dáil of 160 TDs and 941 city and county councillors.

Candidates traverse the State to meet voters personally, driving thousands of kilometres to talk directly to as many of their own party or Independent voters as possible in an intense campaign before the close of voting on March 30th.

Former Fianna Fáil TD Malcolm Byrne, a Co Wexford Seanad candidate who stopped face-to-face canvassing immediately following the Government announcement, said “there are obviously councillors who might be vulnerable or who have vulnerable family members”.

He said “traipsing across the country” would not be welcomed by voters.

Mr Byrne, the shortest serving TD in the Dáil following his November by election victory, said he had travelled extensively in Munster and Leinster to meet voters, driving several thousand kilometres and had planned in the final two weeks to cover the Connaught-Ulster region.

But he was now “hitting the phone and email”. Mr Byrne said he has canvassed 60 per cent to 70 per cent of Fianna Fáil voters who include just under 300 councillors, as well as a number of members of other parties and Independents.

Sligo Fianna Fáil councillor Rosaleen O’Grady, a nurse, had called for candidates to stop calling to meet voters. Cllr O’Grady thanked candidates for confining their campaigns to phone and email. She pointed out that most candidates had had an opportunity to directly canvass councillors at the annual meeting last week in Longford of the Association of Irish Local Government, the representative body for councillors.

Candidates met hundreds of councillors attending the two-day meeting in the Longford Arms Hotel.

A total of 118 candidates are contesting the election for the 43 seats on the five vocational panels.

There are 19 candidates on the NUI panel where graduates of its colleges elect three Senators.

A further 10 candidates are contesting the three seats on the University of Dublin (Trinity College) panel.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times