Friday 24 November 2017

Senators in spotlight

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

FIANNA Fail Senator Jim Walsh (66) has emerged as the most trenchant opponent of the abortion bill in his party.

The long-serving senator was one of the Fianna Fail 'old guard' who was excluded from the recommended list of up-and-coming candidates that Micheal Martin wanted to get elected in 2011.

But Mr Walsh (pictured) succeeded in persuading enough Fianna Fail councillors, TDs and senators to back him to retain his Seanad seat.

The Wexford-based politician has been in the Seanad for the past 16 years. He was a strong opponent of the previous Government's civil-partnership legislation. He proposed multiple amendments to the abortion bill, has spoken at length at every opportunity and has told Health Minister Dr James Reilly that he has no intention of letting him pass the bill easily.

But Mr Walsh has been heavily criticised by Government senators and even his own party for his graphic descriptions of abortions.

Married with three children, he has spoken publicly of the upset in his family when his wife had a miscarriage. BRIAN O Domhnaill (35), also a Fianna Fail senator, is a native Irish speaker who is frequently heard over the airwaves on Raidio na Gaeltachta.

A former Irish international athlete and a keen soccer player, he was elected to Donegal County Council in 2004 and ran for the Seanad in 2007.

Although he did not get elected, he was then appointed as one of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's nominees.

He lost out in the Donegal South West constituency to Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty in the 2010 Dail by-election and again in the 2011 general election.

But Mr O Domhnaill (pictured) succeeded in retaining his Seanad seat in 2011. He is facing an investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission into travel expenses – which was recently postponed.

He has been part of a de facto group – made up of Senator Jim Walsh, Independent Senator Ronan Mullen and Fine Gael rebel Senators Fidelma Healy Eames and Paul Bradford – who have provided the most vocal opposition to the abortion bill in the Seanad.

Irish Independent

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