Norris compares Seanad to D-Day landings as Naughton welcomed

Labour senator denies party members defied whip on Oireachtas Committee vote

The Taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad Cllr Hildegarde Naughton was welcomed into the Upper House today. She replaces Martin McAleese.

The Taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad Cllr Hildegarde Naughton was welcomed into the Upper House today. She replaces Martin McAleese.

 

The Taoiseach’s nominee to the Seanad Cllr Hildegarde Naughton was welcomed into the Upper House today.

Ms Naughton was nominated by Enda Kenny on Friday, to replace Dr Martin McAleese, who resigned from the Seanad in January.

The new senator was welcomed by Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke, before taking her place in the seat previously occupied by Fidelma Healy-Eames, who lost the Fine Gael whip after she voted against the Government’s abortion legislation.

Welcome for her appointment was widespread, but two senators criticised the nomination.

David Norris (Ind) said Ms Naughton said she would receive a welcome that was “infinitely warmer” than the one he received in Galway during the presidential election in 2011.

Then mayor of Galway city council, Ms Naughton in her casting vote, rejected a request from Mr Norris to address the council but she later described her vote as a misunderstanding and a mistake, and the decision was reversed.

Mr Norris described the Upper House as “like D-Day here with all the parachutes landing all over the place”. He said it indicated the “Taoiseach’s continuing determination to corrupt the Senate”.

Rónán Mullen (Ind) said Ms Naughton’s appointment “will inevitably will be perceived as an act of political vindictiveness on the part of the Taoiseach” and of misusing the Seanad to pursue the internal politics of Fine Gael.

The new Galway senator is in the same constituency as Ms Healy-Eames and TD Brian Walsh who both voted against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Ms Healy-Eames said she was very happy to welcome Ms Naughton to the Seanad. “We go back a bit. Her dad was very good to me. He was my mentor in politics when I started.”

Ms Healy-Eames added that when she was elected to the Seanad in 2007, she approached Ms Naughton to take up her council seat. “Since then she has been a very fine public representative locally and she looked forward to her contributions. “Oranmore will not know what hit it with two of us here.”

Earlier, Labour senator Aideen Hayden insisted no member of the party defied the whip in their abstention on Friday in a row about membership of committees.

She said despite media commentary over the weekend there was no defiance of the whip.

During chaotic scenes in the Seanad five labour senators unexpectedly abstained in a vote on memberships of Oireachtas committees. They did so after John Kelly (Lab) refused to accept his nomination to the European affairs committee, when he realised he would replace James Heffernan who lost the party whip months ago.

This afternoon Labour Seanad leader Ivana Bacik said the internal group issue had been resolved to Mr Kelly’s satisfaction.