Nominations for the Seanad bye-elections closed on Tuesday at twelve noon. The nominations were submitted for two Seanad seats that were vacant by the resignations of two senators last year. The resignations of senator Michael D’arcy and Senator Elisha McCallion, left places on the Agricultural panel and Industrial and Commercial panels vacant respectively. The nomination process has been hotly contested and has resulted in a few surprises.
Why are the bye-elections taking place?
Former Senator Michael D’arcy resigned and was placed on the agricultural panel to take up the role of chief executive of the Irish Association of Investment Managers. The Fine Gael senator resigned in September of last year. The seat on the Industrial and Commercial panel was left vacant following the resignation of Sinn Fein Senator Elisha McCallion. The former Senator resigned after it emerged that she had received a £10,000 Covid-19 relief grant that she was not entitled to.
Nomination papers have been submitted for seven candidates. These nomination papers require the signature of either nine TD’s or senators.
There are three candidates for the seat on the agricultural panel. Maria Byrne who served as a Fine Gael senator from 2016 to 2020. Labour have nominated Angela Feeney, a Kildare councillor and head of Culinary arts at TU Dublin. The final candidate is Ian Marshall who previously served as president of the Ulster Farmers Union.
The industrial and commercial panel has four candidates, with two former senators in the mix. The Labour party has nominated adviser to Justice for Magdalenes Research Ciarán Ahern for the seat. He is joined on the ballot by former Senator Billy Lawless, a Chicago based publican with a long history of advocating for the rights of emigrants. Former Senator Gerry Horkan has also secured a nomination. The Fianna Fail member previously served on the panel from 2016-2020.
The final and perhaps the most contentious candidate is current Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu. It has been rumoured for weeks that Chu was seeking the nomination. The Green Party of which Chu is chair of, had voted not to nominate a candidate for the Seanad bye - elections.
Chu received her nominations from a mix of Green Party and Independent TD’s and Senators. Among those who signed Chu's nomination papers are Independent TD Marian Harkin and Independent Senators Lynn Ruane and Eileen Flynn.
Chu also recieved nominations from Minister and Green Party Deputy leader Catherine Martin, as wll as Green TD's Neasa Hourigan, Patrick Costello and Francis Noel Duffy, Green Party junior minister Joe O’Brien, Green Party Senator Vincent P Martin. These nominations seem to reflect one of many symptoms of continued unrest within the Green Party.
Chu announced her candidacy in a statement to members on Monday night. Chu announced in the statement that she wanted to stand in the election to bring diversity to the ballot. In her statement Chu said; “I believe adding diversity to this ballot,representing both women and those from an ethic minority, is crucial at a time when we need more voices heard in politics''.
It is unclear which way the voting will go in this bye-election. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael had previously created a voting pact.This would likely lead to the election of Fine Gael nominee Maria Byrne to the agricultural panel and Fianna Fail’s Gerry Horkan to the Industrial and Commercial panel.
This prediction may be disrupted as many in Fianna Fail see Ian Marshall as an ally and many in Fine Gael have close ties to independent Billy Lawless. The Green Party was also expected to vote with the government but the introduction of Lord Mayor Hazel Chu to the race may also impact the government party's hope of achieving two seats, however leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan announced he will not vote for Chu, without consulting his coalition partners first.
The bye-elections will take place through th means of postal vote from the 7th to the 21st of April. Two hundred and eighteen TD’s and Senators will vote in this election. The horse trading and electioneering will begin over the next few weeks in what is set to be a very interesting and possibly explosive election.