It’s vital to have unionist voice in Irish senate, says NI farmer after election
A unionist farmer who counts Sinn Fein among his backers has been elected to the Irish parliament's upper chamber, the Seanad.
Ian Marshall is a former president of the Ulster Farmers' Union who is opposed to Brexit and is pro-choice on the abortion issue. He becomes one of a small number of Northern Ireland unionists to ever sit in the Seanad in Dublin.
That his candidature was supported by Sinn Fein makes his election more remarkable.
The farmer from Markethill, Co Armagh, who topped the poll in the vote by fellow senators and TDs to fill two vacated Seanad seats, describes himself as a "pragmatic" unionist.
He says he is willing to listen to economic arguments in favour of a united Ireland, but insists he does not believe the case for reunification is a compelling one.
He was approached to run for one of two vacant seats on the Seanad's agriculture panel by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and will sit as an independent.
Mr Marshall said the idea of taking a seat in the Seanad was something he had never envisaged.
"It actually came about by virtue of a conversation and call from the Taoiseach," he said.