The Taoiseach’s spokesman said yesterday that the four vacant positions have not yet been filled.
The four Senators nominated by the Taoiseach to the Upper House in 2002 and who have been elected to the Dáil are: Mary O’Rourke, Cyprian Brady, Micheál Kitt and Brendan Kenneally.
The spokesman employed a double negative when asked if Mr Ahern would fill the vacancies: “They have not not been filled in the past,” he said.
A total of 11 senators out of the 60 in the Upper House were nominated by the Taoiseach to the Senate in 2002.
The practice has been that when a senator who is one of the 11 nominees is elected to the Dail, the Taoiseach replaces him or her with a temporary senator for the period of about two months before the Senate reconvenes.
These temporary or ‘weekend’ senators get paid the full senator’s salary for that two months; and also receive free parking for life at Leinster House, in addition to other privileges, including access to the members’ bar and restaurant.
In the past, Fianna Fáil has used the vacancies as a perk for its general secretary and other senior officials — Pat Farrell, Martin Macken and Des Richardson are among those appointed in the past to fill the short-term vacancies.
In addition, TDs who lost their seats have also filled positions. Following the 1992 election, Albert Reynolds appointed Michael O’Kennedy, Terry Leyden and Brendan Daly as temporary senators following the loss of their Dáil seats.
All went on to win seats in the Seanad election that followed.