Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has accused the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin of “ignoring the people of the north” by not nominating Ian Marshall to the Seanad.
In 2018, the Armagh-born farmer became the first unionist elected to the upper house of the Oireachtas but subsequently lost his seat. The Sinn Féin vice-president yesterday expressed her “deep disappointment” that no unionist voices were among 11 new Seanad nominees.
Taoisigh have often included people from Northern Ireland, such as John Robb (served 1982–89), Seamus Mallon (1982–83) of the SDLP, Bríd Rodgers (1983–87) also of the SDLP, and peace campaigner Gordon Wilson (1993–97).
Mr Marshall was elected to the 25th Seanad in April 2018 in a by-election for the Agricultural Panel. He was approached to stand by Leo Varadkar and his candidacy was also supported by Sinn Féin.
Sitting as an independent, he was the first unionist member elected to the Oireachtas since the 1930s. He lost his seat in the 2020 Seanad election.
Mr Martin was entitled to nominate 11 senators but decided not to chose Mr Marshall or, indeed, any representatives from Northern Ireland.
There will, however, be a unit within the Taoiseach’s department “to work towards a consensus on a shared island”. With appropriate energy and resources, this could be more respectful of all traditions than a tokenistic Seanad appointment.