FF-FG Seanad voting pact in jeopardy as reps look to back independent candidates

FF-FG Seanad voting pact in jeopardy as reps look to back independent candidates

Former Senator Billy Lawless is an independent candidate in the forthcoming Seanad by-election and could garner support from Fine Gael representatives. 

There is speculation and concern that a voting pact between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael for the Seanad by-election will collapse.

A number of Fianna Fáil representatives are expected to break a voting pact with Fine Gael and back an independent candidate for the Seanad by-election, party sources have confirmed.

Meanwhile, while the Green Party has confirmed it is not putting anyone forward for the Seanad by-election, Dublin Mayor Hazel Chu is thought to have canvassed for signatures in her own party and from independent senators.

Ms Chu declined to comment on the issue when approached by the Irish Examiner.

There is speculation that Dublin Mayor Hazel Chu may be interested in running for the Seanad seat.
There is speculation that Dublin Mayor Hazel Chu may be interested in running for the Seanad seat.

Despite the agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, it is expected that some within Fianna Fáil will back Ian Marshall, a former senator and former president of the Ulster Farmers Union for the Agricultural Panel.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael agreed on an election voting pact for each party to stand just one candidate to ensure each is elected, Fianna Fail's former Dublin senator Gerry Horkan has been nominated to the Industrial and Commercial panel and Fine Gael have nominated former Limerick senator Maria Byrne to the Agricultural panel.

Mr Marshall is also backed by Sinn Féin and the Social Democrats and sources within Fianna Fáil believe that using the cover of the secret ballot, members of their own party voting for Mr Marshall could be enough to get see him elected.

Some Fianna Fáil representatives are set to support independent candidate former senator Ian Marshall.
Some Fianna Fáil representatives are set to support independent candidate former senator Ian Marshall.

Independent Billy Lawless, a publican and restaurateur normally based in Chicago has also been nominated for the Industrial panel. Mr Lawless is known well in Leinster House for his work with the Irish diaspora and undocumented in the USA with links to Fine Gael. It's suspected that he could also gain votes from those seeking to send a message to leader Leo Varadkar amid rancour within his ranks.

"They'd rather vote for a unionist than a Fine Gael candidate honestly, and many feel Ian Marshall got shafted," a senior party source said.

"There's around 11 reps that aren't going to hold ranks, no one trusts anybody, the Civil War isn't over.

"The feeling is this is not high stakes anyway and it's better from their point of view to have Ian Marshall who has a lot to give."

Another Fianna Fáil TD said he believed the government "could lose both seats".

"Billy Lawless has a long history with Fine Gael, we could see some of Fine Gael vote for him and Ian Marshall is a good, useful man and a lot of people believe should have a unionist in the Seanad." 

"Anything could happen."

Another said there is a "strong possibility of an upset" for the government and that many in Fianna Fáil believe it is "sensible" to have a unionist in the Oireachtas.

The concern stems from the previous experience of the secret ballot for the Leas Ceann Comhairle position where the government candidate Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd lost the election to popular-independent TD Catherine Connolly in a shock upset.

One cabinet minister confirmed to the Examiner there is "serious concern" the same thing could happen in the by-elections as neither Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael expect the Green Party to vote entirely with the government as well as concern about their own TDs.

The deadline for nominations for the two Seanad byelection closes tomorrow.

The by-election was sparked by the shock resignations of Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy, who left to become chief executive of the Irish Association of Investment Managers.

The elections will be held by postal vote and run from April 7 to April 21 with 218 TDs and Senators taking part in the ballot.

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