SHE'S the country's newest senator who is eyeing a spot in the Dail after the next election, but Hildegarde Naughton has a back-up plan in case it all goes wrong -- a singing career.
The Fine Gael representative has formed a musical group and will be performing at events over the festive period.
Ms Naughton who was appointed to the upper house as a replacement for Martin McAleese in July has long been a fan of musical theatre and has even won a coveted AIMS award for her portrayal of Eliza Dolittle in recent years.
After being approached repeatedly over the years to perform at charity events, she decided to join forces with two other sopranos to form Bel Canto.
The group has now been inundated with requests to perform, but the politician has insisted she has no plans to give up the day job.
"It's just a hobby for me and it's all for charity. It's my golf really. I've no plans to do it full time. I'm very happy in politics at the minute," she said.
The politician, who started singing with the Patrician Musical Society in Galway when she was 16, has teamed up with fellow sopranos Delia Boyce and Sandra Schalks to form the group which is assisted by musical director Mairead Berrill.
"We have been friends for years and often ended up singing together at charity events at the last minute so we decided during the summer to form a group in order to have more structure," said Ms Naughton.
"This is a busy time of year for us and we're being asked to do a lot of Christmas concerts," she added.
However, she insisted that her political colleagues would not be hearing her dulcet tones in Leinster House. "No, no no. I don't think so. There's a theatre for everything but that's not it," she laughed.
While she is enjoying her musical hobby at present, the senator admitted she may have less time to perform if her plans to run in the next general election come to fruition. "I'm really enjoying my time in the Seanad but my plan remains to use the opportunity to put myself forward to represent the people of Galway West at a national level in the Dail," she added.