9 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth
Lobbying is underway by hopefuls to secure Seanad nominations for the Taoiseach’s 11 appointees. The 26th Seanad (the Upper House of the Irish Parliament) is made up of ‘Panels’
- Cultural and educational panel: 5 Senators
- Agricultural panel: 11 Senators
- Labour panel: 11 Senators
- Industrial and commercial panel: 9 Senators
- Administrative panel: 7 Senators
- National University of Dublin (All the NUI Colleges including University College Cork): 3 Senators
- University of Dublin (Trinity College): 3 Senators
- Taoiseach’s nominees: 11 Senators
Each of the main panels have now been filled, so attention now turns to the Taoiseach’s nominees. The Taoiseach of the day can select any 11 people whom he wishes. Nominees do not have to have political or industry experience.
Government formation talks are still taking place between the various parties. Normally when a deal is concluded the Taoiseach would ensure certain members of the other parties would receive some seats in the Upper House, in proportion to their Dail representation.
It’s reported that Fine Gaels’s Leo Varadkar (The acting Taoiseach) and Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin (Cork South Central TD) have not discussed Seanad appointments because neither knows if a third or fourth party will join with them in a new Government, and once the parties are known they will then need to agree a ‘Programme for Government’.
None of FIne Gael’s female candidates were elected as Senators in the panels, so it is expected that gender equality will be in the mind of the Taoiseach when it comes to the 11 seats he has direct control over. However 11 is now an even number, and there cannot be 5.5 of each gender! It’s understood that Leo Varadkar would like all, or most, of the 11 seats to be filled by women.
From a Cork perspective, informed sources have not linked many Cork names with the 11 vacant seats. This is because Fianna Fail performed reasonably well in Cork. Former Cork South-West Fianna Fail TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony failed to be re-elected as a TD in General Election, and her name was linked with a Seanad seat briefly, but given that Fianna Fail retained the Cork South-West Dail seat that lessens her chances of selection. Fianna Fail need to cement their presence beyond the rebel county.