Seanad nominations for inside candidates closed today with a number of failed election candidates given a second chance at public office by their parties.
Most notable for the Green Party is Saoirse McHugh, the Mayo native who ran for both European and general elections and has become the face of the younger generation of Green voters, sometimes at odds with her own party leadership.
“Ireland has entered a new stage politically; it is more important than ever that social justice and environmental protection form the basis of legislation going forward," Ms McHugh said in a statement.
"We have a huge opportunity to improve people’s lives as we respond to avert climate breakdown."
Councillor for Galway City West Pauline O’Reilly and incumbent senator and former candidate for Laois-Offaly Pippa Hackett have also been nominated by the party to the upper house.
Likewise, a number of former Fianna Fáil TDs who lost their seats last month have secured nominations to the Seanad.
Timmy Dooley, who was forced to apologise to the Dáil last year for his part in a voting irregularity scandal, has secured a nomination along with former Meath West TD Shane Cassells, Roscommon-Galway’’s Eugene Murphy, Louth’’s Declan Breathnach and Wicklow’’s Pat Casey.
Nine inside candidates have been nominated in total by Fianna Fáil, four of whom are women including shock loss to the party and Brexit spokesperson Lisa Chambers of Mayo and Margaret Murphy-O’Mahony of Cork South-West.
Along with former TDs, a number of failed general election candidates have also been selected including Catherine Ardagh and incumbent senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee. Incumbent senator Diarmuid Wilson has also been reselected.
Wexford’’s short-lived Fianna Fáil by-election winner and former TD Malcolm Byrne has been nominated by the Drama League of Ireland for a place on the Cultural and Educational Panel.
Fianna Fáil’’s Director of Elections, Robert Troy said the party worked hard to ensure a geographically well-placed panel to represent the widest electorate.
The selection of candidates will do little for the long held belief that the Seanad is often used as a "dumping ground for failed TDs" and a breeding ground for future TDs.
Dr Maurice Manning, author of the 2018 Manning Report to significantly reform the Seanad says that if his group’’s proposals were implemented which includes public voting, the type of candidates would change.
"It would certainly broaden out the possibilities for nominations," he said. "Some people at the minute who would like to be in the Seanad can’’t get nominations due to how it’’s currently structured. Taking this away would hugely broaden the choice for voters. The proposals have been accepted in principle but the pace of reform is very slow.
"It’’s not fit for purpose, it disfranchises most Irish people. There is need to reform it in such a way that the functions are updated, and electoral systems ensure that more people have a vote."
Polling for the vocational panels on the 60 seats in the Seanad closes on March 30.