The Independent Group of Senators has moved the writ for the Seanad byelection to fill a vacancy following the resignation of former Fine Gael senator Michael D’Arcy from the agriculture panel.
The election is expected to take place in the early spring next year although the three Government party leaders have yet to formally discuss the issue.
Mr D’Arcy, a former minister of state, resigned from the Seanad in September to take up a position as chief executive of the Irish Association of Investment Management.
A second vacancy arose following the resignation in October of Sinn Féin senator Elisha McCallion in the wake of controversy over her receipt of £10,000 in Covid relief grants under the Small Business Grant scheme in Northern Ireland, for which she was ineligible.
The party has not moved the writ for the vacancy on the Industrial and Commercial panel but has signalled its support for former senator Ian Marshall, a former president of the Ulster Farmers’ Association for the Agriculture Panel vacancy.
Former minister of state and independent TD Kevin “Boxer” Moran has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the election, though Mr Moran has yet to confirm his interest in the seat.
A number of Fine Gael politicians have been also been mooted as possible candidates including former Fine Gael Limerick senator Maria Byrne, who lost her seat in the general election, and former Mayo senator Michelle Mulherrin.
The party’s former Carlow-Kilkenny TD Pat Deering, who lost his seat in the general election, has also been identified as a possible nominee, along with former Leitrim senator Michael Comiskey, who served in the Seanad from 2011 to 2016.
The Government’s parliamentary parties will decide their nomination and candidate, and are expected to agree a single Coalition nomination for each byelection.
Minister for Local Government Darragh O'Brien sets the date for the election but leader of the Independent group Senator Victor Boyhan moved the writ.
He called on the Clerk of the Seanad to “send to the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage notice of a vacancy in the membership of Seanad Éireann occasioned by the resignation of Senator Michael D’Arcy, a member elected from the Oireachtas Sub-Panel of the Agricultural Panel at the General Election for Seanad Éireann, April, 2020”.
Byelections are decided by sitting TDs and Senators, a total electorate of 220 who vote by postal ballot.
The Government has a majority in both Houses and based on numbers will be expected to win both seats. However it is a secret ballot and the Government therefore cannot be absolutely sure all its TDs and Senators will vote in line with Coalition preference.