Government moves to fill two Seanad vacancies


THE GOVERNMENT has started moves to fill two vacancies in the Seanad caused by the death of Fianna Fáil Senator Tony Kett and the election of Labour Party Senator Alan Kelly to the European Parliament in the South constituency.

Leader of the House Senator Donie Cassidy yesterday sent notices of both vacancies, one on the administrative panel and the other on the agricultural panel, to Minster for the Environment John Gormley.

Elections to fill both vacancies must be held within 180 days but are expected to be held sooner. Only TDs and Senators are entitled to vote in the byelections. Both seats are expected to be filled by representatives of Government parties.

A third vacancy has arisen in the 60-seat chamber following the sudden death last weekend of Senator Peter Callanan from Clonakilty in Co Cork. It is not expected that the notice for that vacancy will be moved for some time, as a mark of respect for the late Mr Callanan.

There are currently 30 Senators supporting the Government in the Seanad: 26 Fianna Fáil members; two from the Green Party; and two Independents, Fiona O’Malley and Eoghan Harris.

The former PD senator Ciarán Cannon has joined Fine Gael and the former Independent senator representing Dublin University, Ivana Bacik, has since aligned with the Labour Party.

There is an understanding between Fianna Fáil and the Greens in the Seanad that Government vacancies will be filled by members of the same party and that both parties will take turns with vacancies that arise from other parties or Independents.

Significantly, however, no decision has been taken as to which party will nominate a candidate to fill the vacancy for Mr Kelly’s seat.

The Department of the Environment said yesterday that no date had yet been fixed for the holding of the election. It is understood that it will take place well within the 180 day period.

A number of prominent Fianna Fáil representatives have been mentioned, most notably the former MEP Eoin Ryan, who lost his European Parliament seat in the June elections. Other possible candidates include Shay Brennan, who was an unsuccessful candidate for his late father Séamus Brennan’s seat in the Dublin South byelection; Micheál Smith from Tipperary North, a son of former minister Michael Smith; Mary Fitzpatrick in Dublin Central (whose election would allow Bertie Ahern’s brother Maurice to be co-opted on to Dublin City Council) and Averil Power in Dublin North East.

Should the Green Party be allowed to nominate a candidate to fill Mr Kelly’s seat, the front-runner will be Mark Dearey from Co Louth, the party’s only newly elected county councillor. Other possible candidates would be former mayor of Galway Niall Ó Brolcháin and Clare county councillor Brian Meaney.