Meath councillor to contest Seanad byelection for Sinn Féin

Sinead Burke will run against party critic Máiría Cahill, who was chosen by Labour

Sinn Féin councillor Sinead Burke will contest the Seanad byelection against Máiría Cahill, who is the Labour Party nominee for the seat left vacant by the retirement of Jimmy Harte.

Ms Burke, a member of Meath County Council and former mayor of Navan, was among the four candidates who put their names forward when nominations for the position closed at noon on Thursday.

Reacting to the development, Ms Cahill tweeted: "Female candidate for Sinn Féin Senate run, feminist, affable and has not attacked me publicly to date. Good luck to Sinead Burke."

Meanwhile, Jerry Beades, a former member of the Fianna Fáil national executive and spokesman for the New Land League, will run as an Independent candidate.


Seanad election andidates need to be nominated by nine Oireachtas members. Independent Senator Averil Power was one of the nine who nominated Mr Beades, although she will support Ms Cahill in the vote.

“He came to me late last night to say he was a few signatures short. I made it very clear to him I’m supporting Mairia Cahill, but I said I’d help him get a nomination,” she said.

Ms Power said she was motivated by her belief that the process of securing a nomination for the Seanad was too restrictive, gave the advantage to parties and made it difficult for Independents to contest.

Mr Beades said the other Oireachtas members who nominated him were Senators David Norris, Ronan Mullen, Feargal Quinn, Seán Barrett, Fidelma Healy-Eames and Mary Ann O'Brien, along with TDs Mattie McGrath and Michael Healy-Rae.

Mayo GP Dr Keith Swanick will contest the election for Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael is backing Ms Cahill as its Coalition partner's candidate.

The electorate at Seanad byelections is composed of the members of the Dáil and Seanad, with voting by secret postal ballot. Ballots will be distributed on October 30th and a result will be declared on November 13th.

Information about Ms Burke released by Sinn Féin described her as married mother of two children from Dunmoe, Navan, who qualified as a radio journalist at Dublin’s Ballyfermot College and studied Community Development at NUI, Maynooth.

"Sinéad has worked as a community development worker for the past 14 years, during which time she has worked with Meath Travellers Workshops Ltd, as Co-ordinator of Navan Community Development Project and as Editor of the national magazine 'Voice of the Traveller'," the party stated.

Ms Burke is a member of the board of directors of Meath Enterprise Centre. Her areas of interest include disability rights and mental health.

Ms Cahill, a grandniece of leading IRA figure Joe Cahill, has alleged she was raped by an IRA member and had to face her alleged assailant in a republican-style court. A vocal critic of Sinn Féin, she came to public attention following a BBC Spotlight programme in which she first made her allegations.

She has alleged that at a meeting with Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams about her allegations, he said: "Well you know, Máiría, abusers can be extremely manipulative. And you know . . . sometimes they are that manipulative that the people who have been abused actually enjoy it."

Mr Adams has said he was "personally horrified" over the remarks attributed to him and strongly denied making the comments.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times