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Wednesday 26 April 2017

Kenny will move to fill Seanad seat as autumn by-elections loom

Stephanie Regan
Stephanie Regan
Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

A sister of a former Fine Gael Senator who was a vocal critic of controversial payments to Bertie Ahern could get a vacant Seanad seat.

Fine Gael's replacement candidate for Lucinda Creighton is also being speculated upon as a potential senator.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has a Seanad seat to fill after the election of the Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune to the European Parliament in June and he is expected to announce a new senator soon.

Dublin City Council local election candidate Stephanie Regan is being tipped for the post. She is a sister of former party Senator Eugene Regan, based in Dun Laoghaire, who was an outspoken critic of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern during the payments controversies in 2006 and 2007. Ms Regan is viewed as a candidate on the ticket in the new Dublin Bay North constituency, where Jobs Minister Richard Bruton is based.

Former Fine Gael TD Terence Flanagan is also based in the constituency, but he left the party over the abortion legislation and has shown no sign of returning to the fold.

Also being linked with the post is Dublin City Councillor Kate O'Connell, who is being lined up to replace former Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton on the party ticket at the next general election in the newly expanded constituency of Dublin Bay South. Party strategists hope Ms O'Connell will prove a strong opponent for the former junior minister, who left the party over the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act in July 2013.

Among the other names being speculated upon for the Seanad vacancy are former Dublin City Council member Gerry Breen, Cllr Noel Rock, Cllr Keith Redmond and local election candidate Samantha Long.

The Seanad vacancy will be filled by a by-election in which sitting Senators and TDs will vote. Since the Government has an overwhelming majority in the Dail this means the de facto decision rests with the Taoiseach.

The decision for Mr Kenny when he returns to Government Buildings is interlinked with a number of other political personnel issues. These mainly concern the timing and candidate choices for Dail by-elections in Roscommon- South Leitrim and Dublin South West, due this autumn.

Both these vacancies arise from the election of Independent TD Luke Ming Flanagan and Junior Minister Brian Hayes to the European Parliament, also last June. The choice of Fine Gael candidate for one or other of these by-elections may influence who gets the vacant Seanad seat.

It is widely believed that neither government party can win these by-elections but both Fine Gael and Labour will be keen to put their best foot forward as all parties now have an eye towards a general election expected, at the latest, in spring 2016.

These by-elections must be held before the end of the year and are likely to be before the Budget, which is to be presented on October 14.

A third expected by-election caused by the move of former Environment Minister Phil Hogan to the EU Commission is not expected until next spring. Mr Hogan remains a TD until November.

Irish Independent

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