Leo Varadkar, the health minister, has placed his support behind Averil Power ahead of the Seanad election.
Speaking at Trinity College Dublin, where Ms Power is hoping to gain the support of graduates for one of their three university panel seats, Mr Varadkar said: “I will be giving Averil Power my number one vote in the Seanad election and urge other Trinity graduates to do the same.”
The former Fianna Fáil senator, who is now running as an Independent, failed to be elected in the Dublin Bay North constituency in the recent general election and is now hoping to stay in politics by returning the Seanad.
Mr Varadkar added: “I have known her since college, where she was an excellent president of the students union. I really respected her leadership in the marriage equality campaign. She has also been a constructive and effective member of the Seanad and I hope she is re-elected.”
Ms Power left Fianna Fáil as she believed the party did not take a strong enough line on the marriage referendum campaign and has now received the support of a number of other high-profile figures, including businesswoman Norah Casey, musician Niall Breslin, and the chairwoman of Marriage Equality, Gráinne Healy.
Others fighting for a seat on the Trinity panel include outgoing senators David Norris, Ivan Bacik and Sean Barrett; Friends of the Earth director Patrick Coghlan; former RTÉ producer Ethna Tinney; and barrister Maeve Cox.
Polling in the TCD and NUI Seanad elections opened yesterday and will close on April 26.
The NUI ballot paper features a number of high-profile candidates including former ICTU head David Begg; businessman Pádraig Ó Céidigh; the daughter of President Michael D Higgins, Alice-Mary Higgins; and former minister, Michael McDowell.
As well as the six university senators, another 11 senators are nominated by the Taoiseach. The remaining 43 seats are chosen by an electorate of around 1,200, made up of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad, and councillors.