Parties agree minority government could not control new Seanad

Seanad can hold up legislation for 90 days

The prospect of a minority government failing to control the new Seanad could influence Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to consider a coalition deal, sources in both parties have conceded.

While the Seanad has no power to block the budget it can hold up routine legislation for 90 days, which could pose significant problems for a new administration.

Fianna Fáil remains publicly adamant that it will not coalesce with Fine Gael despite pressure mounting to make a deal following the inconclusive result of last month’s general election.

A minority government would inevitably be in a minority position in the Seanad as well as the Dáil, while a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition would secure a majority by the taoiseach’s 11 nominees.

“Failing to have a Seanad majority could make life difficult if we were in government and in a minority position in the Dáil,’’ said a Fine Gael source.

A Fianna Fáil source predicted the opposition in the Seanad would make “endless mischief’’ if there was a minority government. “It would put us in a difficult position if we were the ones keeping the government in power in the other chamber.’’

The 60-member Seanad is made up of 43 members elected on vocational panels from an electorate made up of the country’s 949 county councillors, the 158 members of the new Dáil and members of the outgoing Seanad.

University panels

Six Senators are elected by the two university panels, three by graduates of

Trinity College

and three by graduates of the National University of Ireland. The remaining 11 are appointed by the taoiseach of the day.

A Seanad without a government majority would likely elect an opposition member to the coveted post of cathaoirleach, further complicating matters.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that, unlike in the aftermath of the 2011 general election, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and party headquarters have not opposed the nomination of long-serving career Senators in favour of candidates being groomed to win Dáil seats.

Back then Senators resisted Mr Martin's attempts to get them to stand down after the party's disastrous general election when the party was anxious to rebuild in several constituencies with young Senators with Dáil ambitions. It led to considerable tension between the Senators and Mr Martin at the time.

With the retirement of Fianna Fáil Senators Jim Walsh, Mary White and Labhras 0 Murchu, the departure of Averil Power from the party, and the election to the Dáil of Senators Thomas Byrne, Darragh O'Brien and Marc MacSharry, the way is clear for new blood

Fianna Fáil contenders include unsuccessful general election candidates Colm Keaveney, who lost his Galway East seat; Mary Fitzpatrick (Dublin Central); Catherine Ardagh (Dublin South Central); Jennifer Murnane O'Connor (Carlow-Kilkenny); Lorraine Clifford Lee (Dublin-Fingal); Paul McAuliffe (Dublin North West) Connie-Gerety Quinn (Longford-Westmeath) and Daithi de Roiste (Dublin South Central).

Nominations for the university panels have closed, while those for the vocational panels close today. Ballot papers for the vocational panels will be issued on April 11th, with the poll closing at 11am on April 25th. Ballot papers for the university constituencies will be issued today , with the poll closing at 11am on April 26th.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times