Government could face NAMA woes as Seanad majority in question

THE Government could face difficulty passing major pieces of legislation including the measures in December’s budget and the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA) Bill because it no longer holds the majority in the Seanad.

Two Seanad by-elections are expected to be held by the end of November to replace Labour’s Alan Kelly who won a seat in the European Parliament last June and the late Tony Kett, of Fianna Fáil, who passed away in April.

All laws require approval in both the Dáil and the Seanad but the power is in the balance in the Upper House where there are 28 senators on the opposition benches and the same number on the Government side.

This means the casting vote of the Cathaoirleach of the House, Pat Moylan, will be required to pass NAMA which is likely to be voted on before the vacant seats are filled.

This leaves the Government side of the House in “an extremely difficult position” according to Fianna Fáil leader in the House, Donie Cassidy.

The writs for both by-elections were moved in the Seanad yesterday and it is now up to the Environment Minister John Gormley, to decide the dates.

Candidates for Mr Kelly’s replacement on the Seanad’s Agricultural Panel, will be chosen by a nominating body including representatives from the livestock, dairy, horse and greyhound breeding trades.

Candidates for Mr Kett’s replacement will be chosen from political parties because he was one of the Taoiseach’s nominations to the Seanad.

Only Oireachtas members will be entitled to vote in the election meaning Fianna Fáil candidates are almost certain to be elected because of the Government majority in the Dáil.

A third seat was left vacant with the death last week of Fianna Fáil Senator, Peter Callanan, who was a member of the Seanad Agricultural Panel. It is expected to take some time before a writ for the third by-election is moved.

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