Mixed fortunes for parties after count

Political Reporter Juno McEnroe looks at the winners and losers of the Seanad elections

IN what could be deemed the swan song for the Seanad, the elections for the Upper House saw mixed results for parties this week with Fianna Fáil retaining some pride in its attempt to rebuild its depleted parliamentary party.

Taking 14 of the 49 seats voted on, Micheál Martin’s party will be more than content with the results after Fianna Fáil had originally hoped to elect just 10 to 12 senators.

And while there were more surprises for other parties, as well as many fresh faces elected to the 24th Seanad, the days of the Upper House are really numbered.

In fact, the whole process of deciding on the 60-member Seanad almost seems a waste of time with the Coalition government pledge that it will ultimately abolish it.

Even the low-key atmosphere in and around Leinster House summed up the feeling about the second home for politicians, with only those seeking election and their supporters really closely monitoring events.

Mr Martin’s risky campaign of backing a wish list of 10 candidates, however, paid off.

Veteran party members and contending senators like Mary White had opposed his move to overhaul the party’s Seanad seats. But with five, of his preferred 10 elected, the results will be seen as a small victory for the embattled Fianna Fáil leader.

The successful election of the likes of former government adviser Averil Power, failed general election candidate Thomas Byrne as well as the re-election of Marc MacSharry will silence Mr Martin’s detractors, at least for now.

Among the winning Fianna Fáil senators though, Ms Power is the only first-time Oireachtas member elected for the party.

But there was some disappointment for the party yesterday evening after Dublin councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, one of the chosen 10, narrowly lost out on a seat at the final panel count.

While the Seanad seat numbers are only half what Fianna Fáil won in 2007, the extra seats will bring the parliamentary party numbers up to 34 as well as leaving Mr Martin with options to strengthen his front bench.

But the party has been left with just two female Oireachtas members.

Fine Gael will be content with 18 seats though, one less than the party had hoped to ultimately win.

Some 10 of those 18 new senators are also first-time Oireachtas members.

There were also five women among the party’s newly elected senators, giving it the largest proportion of females in the Upper House.

Labour managed to win nine seats, picking up one more than it hoped. All of its new senators are also first-time Oireachtas members.

The five Independent senators elected in the University Panel will also see another two new faces in the Upper House after wins for first-timers oncologist John Crown and economist Sean Barrett.

Sinn Féin will be delighted with their three seats, particularly with the win for 22-year-old Kathryn Reilly, the youngest member of the Oireachtas and possibly the youngest senator ever to be elected.

Earlier in the week, the Greens saw their last chance at remaining in parliament disappear, when outgoing Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and party chairman Dan Boyle failed to get re-elected.

It remains to be seen who Taoiseach Enda Kenny will appoint as his nominees to fill the remaining 11 of the 60 seats next week.

It can be expected that, aside from his own party, Labour will be given some seats. But there are also suggestions circulating that Mr Kenny may bring in some independent voices, ahead of reforms for the abolition of the Seanad.

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