The accountant and dentist by profession, who was central in this week’s successful visit of Queen Elizabeth and her husband Philip, is on the list of 11 nominees selected by the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.
Dr McAleese, who played an important role in building relations between the two communities in the North, said he will not be affiliated to any particular party and will not accept any salary until after his wife’s term as President ends.
The nominees announced by the Taoiseach last night also included former Olympic runner, Eamon Coughlan, and representatives from the arts, education and various charities and advocacy groups.
Dr McAleese, who married President Mary McAleese in 1976, is a native of East Belfast and during her terms in office he has been widely praised for building bridges with unionist communities.
Assisting his wife with her “building bridges” theme in office, he took responsibility for the more controversial job of forging links with loyalist paramilitaries who were persuaded to decommission weapons.
He also set up the Your Country Your Call initiative last year aimed at finding new ideas to create jobs and prosperity for the country.
In a statement last night he said he will ” focus on issues which affect the practical interests of the people of Ireland, especially in regard to economic regeneration and employment.”
He said: “I will also continue, as best I can, to contribute to political harmony and reconciliation on this island.”
Dr McAleese said that over the coming months he would continue to support the President in the performance of her duties, while also starting his new role in the Seanad.
The first meeting of the new, and what could be the last ever Seanad will take place on Wednesday.
It will include the director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach MacConghail, who chairs the recently launched We the Citizens initiative aimed at encouraging people to engage with the political system through a national citizens’ assembly.
Four out of the 11 nominations were given to the Labour Party, including two failed general election candidates, Lorraine Higgins, a barrister from Galway East, and Mary Moran, from Lough, who was also unsuccessful in getting elected to the Seanad.
The other two nominees were Dr Katherine Zappone -a former chief executive of the National Women’s Council and Aideen Hayden, chairperson of the homeless charity Threshold.
Also on Mr Kenny’s list are: businesswoman and founder of the Jack and Jill Foundation Mary Ann O’Brien; lecturer and broadcaster Marie Louise O’Donnell; Jillian van Turnhout of the Children’s Rights Alliance and Jim Darcy, teacher and member of Louth County Council.
The Taoiseach’s nominations to the Seanad:
- Dr Martin McAleese: dental surgeon and husband of the President.
- Eamon Coghlan: director of Crumlin Children’s Medical & Research Foundation and former Olympic athlete.
- Fiach MacConghail: director of Abbey Theatre.
- Marie Louise O’Donnell: Educationalist and frequent contributor to radio and TV shows.
- Jillian van Turnhout: Children’s Rights Alliance
- Jim Darcy: teacher and member of Louth County Council
- Aideen Hayden: solicitor and chairperson of homeless charity Threshold
- Lorraine Higgins: Barrister and unsuccessful Labour Party Dáil candidate.
- Mary Moran: Teacher
- Mary Ann O’Brien: Businesswoman and co-founder of Jack & Jill Foundation
- Katherine Zappone : Member of the Irish Human Rights Commission.