FF set for another drubbing as Seanad ballot count begins

VOTE counting gets under way for the Seanad today with Fianna Fáil expected to suffer a bruising result with the loss of at least half of its seats.

At times considered a holding pen for spurned Dáil hopefuls or a ground for grooming Dáil aspirants, the Seanad is set to be abolished under current Government promises.

But the group of 60 senators to grace its seats for what could be one last term will be decided over the coming days once ballot boxes begin to be opened today.

Counting is expected to continue over the week bringing an end to a six-week campaign for candidates chasing down votes.

The last Seanad saw Fianna Fáil take 25 seats but party insiders expect between 10 to 12 this time out of 31 running.

Fine Gael expect to win up to 19 seats out of 60 candidates with links to the party.

With FF left with no female TDs after a disastrous general election, FF leader Micheál Martin must go outside the Dáil to the Seanad where he hopes to address the gender imbalance in his frontbench line-up.

Mr Martin put together his wish list of 10 Seanad hopefuls, many under the age of 40, to be backed by FF but several nominations were shot down by party veterans, particularly senators wanting to retain seats. Former government adviser Averil Power and Dublin-based councillor Mary Fitzpatrick feature on his list of preferred candidates.

Labour hope to get seven senators elected and are officially backing as many, but another eight candidates are running with party links. Disappointed general election candidates running include John Whelan, John Gilroy and Jimmy Harte.

Green party senators Dan Boyle and Niall Ó Brolcháin want to keep a presence in the Seanad to help rebuild the party.

The Seanad is comprised of 60 members, 43 elected from panels of candidates representing vocational interests, six by university graduates and the remainder are nominated by the Taoiseach.

Votes will be counted for the panels and 43 elected members in the areas of culture and education, agriculture, labour, industrial and commercial and administrative in the Dáil bar and canteen up until Friday.

The universities will conduct their counts for six positions from tomorrow. High-profile independent candidates, including broadcaster Marc Coleman and medical consultant John Crown, are among those contesting the two university constituencies.

A government spokesman could not say when Taoiseach Enda Kenny would decide on his 11 nominees.

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