Former lord mayor Hazel Chu launches Seanad byelection campaign

Greens councillor running as Independent for the vacant University of Dublin seat

Dublin's former lord mayor Hazel Chu has entered the race for the vacant University of Dublin Seanad seat with the support of high-profile backers.

Film director Lenny Abrahamson, TV producer Maia Dunphy and activist Rory O'Neill, also known as Panti Bliss – were among 10 signatories to the Green Party councillor's nomination papers.

And unlike her ill-fated Seanad run last year, Ms Chu believes she has the full permission of her party leadership to enter the race.

The Green Party executive chose not to select a candidate for the byelection caused by former Labour Party Senator Ivana Bacik's election to the Dáil last year.

Ms Chu is running as an Independent and says that if elected she will vote with the Green Party in the Seanad. However, she said that if elected there will be times when she will challenge Government policy as well.

There was a row last year when Ms Chu contested the byelection in the Industrial and Commercial Panel as an Independent.

Party leader Eamon Ryan wanted his TDs and Senators to vote for Coalition candidates in the expectation that they would support a Green Party candidate should another vacancy arise during the lifetime of the Government.

Deputy leader Catherine Martin on the other hand had signed Ms Chu's nomination papers on that occasion.

Ms Chu was asked on Friday if she had the full permission of both Mr Ryan and Ms Martin to run this time and she replied: “Yes. Unless someone tells me otherwise.”

A Green Party spokeswoman said: “University Seanad seats are typically not contested by political parties. The Green Party will not be supporting or running any candidate, but any party member is free to contest if they wish to.

“Hazel Chu informed Eamon Ryan of her intention to contest the election and he wishes her well.”

Green Party Minister Roderic O'Gorman was another signatory to Ms Chu's nomination papers, as was Dublin South-West TD Francis Noel Duffy.

Others included Prof Jane Suiter of Dublin City University and Dr Roja Fazaeli, the chairwoman of the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

‘Leadership’

Setting out her stall to voters, Ms Chu said: “I oversaw this city during the worst time of crisis, and I think I can bring that leadership to the Seanad.”

She said that she would use a Seanad seat to continue tackling issues such as “making the nation and the city into a more sustainable place”, discrimination, gender-based violence, ensuring there is proper inclusion and diversity and fighting climate change.

Ms Chu was frequently on the receiving end of online abuse during her time as lord mayor.

She said research has shown that “a lot of politicians got a lot of hate especially during the pandemic”.

She said she “actively took a step back” after her term as lord mayor and focused on her job as a councillor as she “needed a bit of space”.

Ms Chu said: “This is why I took my time to consider whether to run again.”

The electorate for the University of Dublin Seanad constituency is limited to graduates from Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

Ms Chu is a graduate of University College Dublin (UCD) and she said this factored into her decision-making on running as she wanted to make sure people didn't think she was a "blow-in" to the constituency.

She said she spoke to TCD graduates and the general consensus was that they didn’t think it mattered.

Other candidates in the race are Ursula Quill, a doctoral student at the School of Law in Trinity College who has the backing of Ms Bacik and Hugo MacNeill, a former Ireland rugby international.

Mr MacNeill, who is running as an Independent, is married to Fine Gael TD Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Former Green Party councillor Sadhbh O'Neill an academic researcher, lecturer and advocate for environmental protection is also in the race as is Ade Oluborode a practising barrister-at-law and a committee member of Comhshaol, the climate bar association.