Lively new Seanad not part of government deal

Labour transfers secure Seanad election for former Fine Gael TDs who lost Dáil seats

Ivana Bacik: who retained her seat. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Ivana Bacik: who retained her seat. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

A singer-songwriter, a surfing champion, a guitarist and LGBT campaigner, a disability crusader, a former party leader and eight former TDs are part of the colourful new Seanad.

More than two-thirds of those elected will be new to the Upper House, which is likely to meet next week. Just 15 of the outgoing 49 elected members remain, with an unprecedented nine Independents.

New perspectives will be brought to the Seanad by singer Frances Black, a campaigner on addiction issues; Sinn Féin councillor and former Wolfe Tones musician Fintan Warfield; Disability Federation chief executive John Dolan; and former surfing champion Grace O’Sullivan, the Green Party’s first elected Senator.

The new university panel Senators include social campaigner Alice-Mary Higgins, Trinity Students’ Union president Lynn Ruane and former Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell.



But, while lively, the Seanad could be a nightmare for the new government, as the minority government deal does not extend to the Upper House.

Tipping point

Even assuming Fianna Fáil co-operates with Fine Gael in the Upper House, and even if Enda Kenny’s 11 Taoiseach’s nominees are all loyal Fine Gaelers, the government will still not have a majority. The Seanad cannot bring a government down but has the power to delay Bills and, should this happen repeatedly, it could become a tipping point for the new administration.

However, Labour could prove a steadying hand. The party had a stellar Seanad election performance given its catastrophic loss of TDs. Three seats were predicted. But a skilful strategy by director of elections Joe Costello and five popular candidates on five panels meant a 100 per cent success rate.

Its line-up includes outgoing Ministers of State Kevin Humphreys, Ged Nash and Aodháin Ó Riordáin, who lost Dáil seats, as well as Senators Denis Landy and Ivana Bacik who retained theirs.

Speculation

Four former Fine Gael TDs who lost their Dáil seats were also elected: Gabrielle McFadden, Jerry Buttimer, Kieran O’Donnell and Joe O’Reilly.

There is speculation the Taoiseach will include representatives favoured by Independents and perhaps up to two Labour Party people.

Fine Gael had 18 Senators in 2011, but lost three to defections and the European Parliament. The party comes back with 13, a great performance given the loss of 25 TDs and 105 councillors, though there was a shock defeat for Seanad leader Maurice Cummins and Co Louth Senator Jim D’Arcy.

Their names have been mentioned for a return to the Upper House along with Minister for Children James Reilly and Minister of State Paudie Coffey, both of whom lost Dáil seats. Mr Coffey also lost out in his bid for the Seanad.

Fianna Fáil has 14 Senators, the same as last time, disappointing for a party with a hugely increased electorate of TDs and councillors. Sinn Féin will have seven seats, a huge increase on three in 2011.

Lively the Seanad will certainly be, but effective? It remains to be seen whether the Upper House will prove collegial or chaotic.

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