Fianna Fáil will not contest the Seanad byelection for the seat vacated by former senator Grace O’Sullivan following her election to the European Parliament.
TDs were informed at the party’s parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday that it was a Green Party seat and that Fianna Fáil will be backing Green party candidate Offaly-based Councillor Pippa Hackett, an organic farmer and the party’s agriculture spokeswoman.
There is also a general consensus in Fine Gael that it will not contest the election and will support Cllr Hackett because there are only a few months left to run before a general election.
Formally Fine Gael has said no decision has been made and no date has been set for the election but “there’s no appetite in Government to delay the byelection and it is expected to take place as quickly as possible”, according to sources.
The confirmation of Fianna Fáil’s intention comes as the Seanad on Wednesday approved a motion calling for the byelection to be held.
Leader of the Independent group Senator Victor Boyhan moved the writ by introducing a motion calling on the clerk to formally notify the Minister for Local Government that the vacancy had arisen.
Mr Boyhan said it was ultimately a matter for the Minister to set the date and he had up to 180 days to do this but he said “I think it right and proper to proceed as quickly as possible”.
Both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would like Green party support after the general election in the formation of a government.
Fianna Fáil's candidate in previous Seanad byelections Niall Blaney said he was not surprised by the decision and said that "as a former TD I understand the party has one eye on the next general election and I put my faith in Micheál Martin as the party leader to do the right thing for the party".
He contested the byelection last year in which unionist and former Ulster Farmers' Union leader Ian Marshall was elected. Tipperary-based veterinary surgeon Mary Newman was Fine Gael's candidate in the byelection caused by the retirement on health grounds of Labour's Denis Landy.
A Seanad byelection takes about six weeks because it is a postal election.