Wednesday 22 May 2019

Colourful line-up as senators get ready for the off

Michael McDowell. Photo: Tony Gavin
Michael McDowell. Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The new Seanad is set to be one of the most colourful and diverse in the history of the Oireachtas.

A former Tánaiste, three acting ministers of state, the President's daughter and a singer who has toured the world are among the 49 senators elected this week.

And even after the Taoiseach appoints his 11 nominees, no party or grouping is set to have a majority. Fine Gael lost seats and Fianna Fáil failed to make major gains that had been expected.

Fianna Fáil has 14 seats, followed by Fine Gael on 13, Independents on nine, Sinn Féin on seven, the Labour Party on four and the Green Party on one.

Fourteen women are among those elected on the university and vocational panels, meaning they make up just under 30pc so far.

Former Progressive Democrats leader Michael McDowell told the Irish Independent he is delighted to be in Leinster House - but his priority now is to reform the Seanad.

"The fact that there won't be a government majority in the Seanad will probably be a good thing. A minister bringing bills into the Seanad will have to listen to the debate," he said.

Student leader Lynn Ruane, who was a first-time candidate on the Trinity panel, has "spent the last two days trying to digest it".

"It is a bit daunting and quiet scary. I'm not going to be able to represent everybody all of the time and some people will take issue with that.

"But I'll try to stay focused on the issues I've been working on already," she said, adding that she intends to focus heavily on equality issues.

President Michael D Higgins' daughter Alice Mary, who was an independent candidate on the NUI panel, said she anticipates "an exciting mix" of personalities in the Seanad.

"One thing I want to really push is that new policy and legislation is properly debated on merit. I want to see more equality proofing," she said.

Sinn Féin's Niall Ó Donnghaile, who is contesting next month's Northern Assembly elections, is the only senator from north of the boarder.

"I'm delighted to be here as a Northern voice, a Belfast voice in the Seanad," he said.

Despite their drubbing in the General Election, the Labour Party is delighted to have returned four senators.

Outgoing Minister of State Kevin Humphreys said: "It's going to be very interesting. It's quiet representative of all strands of Irish society."

Irish Independent

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