Seanad likened to ‘D-Day with parachute landings’ as Kenny criticised over new nominee

Majority of Senators welcome Galway West councillor Hildegarde Naughton to Upper House

Hildegarde Naughton: Seanad newcomer. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

Hildegarde Naughton: Seanad newcomer. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 



The nomination by Taoiseach Enda Kenny of Galway West councillor Hildegarde Naughton as a Senator has been described as “vindictive” and a misuse of the Seanad for internal Fine Gael politics.

Ms Naughton took her seat in the Upper House yesterday following her nomination by Mr Kenny on Friday to replace Dr Martin McAleese, who resigned from the Seanad in January.

She was welcomed to the House by cathaoirleach Paddy Burke, before taking her place in the seat previously occupied by Fidelma Healy-Eames, who lost the party whip after she voted against the abortion legislation.

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

Rónán Mullen (Ind) said Ms Naughton’s appointment “will inevitably 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.

Marie Louise O’Donnell (Ind) said it was Mr Mullen who was being vindictive.

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.”

She added that when she was elected to the Seanad in 2007 she approached Ms Naughton to take up her council seat.

David Norris (Ind) described the Seanad 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”.

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

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

Earlier, Labour Senator Aideen Hayden insisted that despite media reports at the weekend, no party member defied the whip in a vote on committee membership.

Five Labour Senators unexpectedly abstained after John Kelly (Lab) refused his nomination to the European Affairs Committee when he realised he would replace James Heffernan, who defected from the party months earlier.