Dramatic climax to Seanad count as five contenders compete for four seats

Sinn Féin former MP tops poll but last to be elected - with help of Fine Gael transfers

Former Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion was the final candidate elected to the Seanad late last night after topping the poll on the Industrial and Commercial panel early on Thursday.

She had to wait until the 30th count for her first transfer which came from Fine Gael former TD and senator Tom Sheahan, when he was eliminated after a strong performance that surprised many of his colleagues.

Ms McCallion, a former mayor of Derry, is one of five new Senators elected to the nine-seat panel. Longford Fine Gael councillor Micheál Carrigy was the first Senator elected, followed by party colleague Cllr Barry Ward, who mopped up transfers throughout the count, which brought him from 30 votes initially to exceed the quota of 113.5.

Fianna Fail Galway city Cllr Ollie Crowe and Labour Cllr Mark Wall are also newcomers along with surprise winner Independent Meath East Cllr Sharon Keogan who successfully ran in two electoral areas in the 2019 local elections.


Well regarded Dublin Fianna Fail Senator Gerry Horkan lost his seat but his transfers elected three of his party colleagues - Seanad leader Catherine Ardagh, Senator Aidan Davitt and Cllr Crowe, who has begun to rejuvenate the party’s base in Galway.

Mr Sheahan’s elimination ended Fine Gael’s chances of holding on to a third seat on this vocational panel. No Fine Gael women have been elected to the Seanad, even though the party went into the election with five.

The lengthy Seanad count concluded after a nail biting wait as five candidates - Independent Senator Frances Black, Cllr Wall, Cllr Keogan, Ms McCallion and Social Democrats Cllr Nial O Tuathail - competed for four seats on the panel.

The Social Democrats lost out on their one chance to win a Seanad seat when Cllr Tuathail came fifth in that final shakedown.

Mr Sheahan's votes transferred to Sinn Fein, Labour, Ms Black and Cllr Keogan, but not to the Social Democrats.

A day of drama included Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone losing the seat she has held since 2011 and former Fianna Fail TD Timmy Dooley failing to win a seat in his bid to remain in the Oireachtas. Both had become embroiled in national controversy in recent months.

Ms Noone in a recorded interview with a journalist during the general election described Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as autistic, remarks for which she later apologised.

Mr Dooley, a senior party politician who lost his Clare Dáil seat in the general election, had been at the centre of a voting controversy when Limerick colleague Niall Collins voted for him six times while he was absent from the Dáil chamber. Both were suspended from the frontbench.

The count starts at 10am on Friday for the Administrative panel, the last of the five vocational panels to be decided. Thirty six of the 43 seats on these panels have been decided. Fianna Fail has 13 sets, Fine Gael 10, Sinn Féin four, Independents four, Labour three and the Green Party two.

The six university seats have also been filled with all six outgoing Senators retaining their positions. The contenders on the Administrative panel include two former TDs, Noel Rock of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail former TD Fiona O’Loughlin.

Five outgoing Senators are seeking re-election and a number of councillors are also contesting, along with John Bosco Conama, Assistant professor of Deaf Studies at Trinity College. His candidacy has been supported by retired Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin O Caolain, which will secure him the party's support in the election. Former chief executive of the Merchant's Quay project Tony Geoghegan is also a contender,

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times