Martin move may leave Tipperary without a FF Senator as well as no TD

Eamonn Lacey

Eamonn Lacey

Fianna Fail’s chances of having any Oireachtas members from County Tipperary have been dealt a blow by the party leader who has excluded Tipperary candidates for the Seanad from his hand picked approved list that he has recommended to party members with a vote in the forthcoming elections.

The party suffered a demoralising setback when both constituencies, Tipperary South and North, failed to deliver a TD in the general election for the party for the first time in the history of the state, and the chances of Tipperary party candidates in the Seanad elections have been hampered by their omission from the leaders list.

The list of ten Seanad Fianna Fail candidates have been recommended to FF county councillors and Oireachtas members by Michael Martin who favours the election to the Seanad of younger FF candidates who have a chance of getting into the Dail in the future.

Two FF Seanad candidates from South Tipperary, former Minister Martin Mansergh and outgoing Senator Labhras O Murchu, have been omitted from the list.

This week former senator and former Minister of State Martin Mansergh said the absence from the list of any one of the four FF candidates, two in the South and two in the North, could create a vacuum.

“There is a strong feeling within the organisation that they would like there to be some representation from Tipperary in the Seanad otherwise there will be a vacuum in the organisation,” said the former Minister who lost his Dail seat in the general election.

He said large parts of the country were not represented on the list including all of County Tipperary.

He expressed surprise that the party leader should publish a list of ten approved candidates and said he was concerned that the Seanad should be used in such a manner for the purposes of the next election.

“There has always been lists before but publishing it was never done before. I think it’s a moot point whether it’s an advantage or not to be on that list. Just because somebody has a positive handicap does not mean they will win the race,” said Mr. Mansergh.

“I support Michael Martin and the general principle of reform but the Seanad was not established just to be a preparatory ground for Dail membership,” insisted the former minister.

Mr Mansergh said that until the people decide otherwise, Seanad Eíreann has a continuing role in our national parliament and as an institution of State.

“As its name and history suggest, a Senate ought to include members of substantial experience. The original Irish Free State Senate had an age threshold of 35, whereas the Dáil’s was 21. While no one today would do other than welcome younger members, who can very often bring valuable experience of their own to bear, the Seanad needs members of all age groups and backgrounds,” he said.

“Respect for the institution means that the Seanad cannot be treated purely as a vehicle for entry or re-entry to the Dáil. Nor, obviously, should it be a retirement home for ex-TDs or indeed long-serving members. If it is reduced to being a means only of boosting the chances of winning seats in future Dáil elections, then it is not surprising that it faces the prospect, not of reform, but of abolition. While the existence of the Seanad has always facilitated the continuity of political careers, and in some cases marked their commencement, some of its best contributors have been members, both from political parties and independents, who have dedicated their careers to the Seanad. Senators have a responsibility themselves to justify the usefulness of the second chamber, and not to bring it into disrepute,” he said.

The former Tipperary South Minister for State said that it was not fair to single out the Seanad for not playing a substantive role in challenging unsustainable policies over the past decade, when the Dáil, the Government itself, its regulatory institutions, and expert economic advisory bodies at home and abroad also by and large collectively failed to do so.

Mr.Mansergh said there is very clearly now equally a collective political responsibility, going beyond government, to rebuild the economy and regain independence within the EU and Euro Zone. Seanad Eíreann has a duty and a capacity to contribute constructively to that immediate task, which should take precedence over other considerations.

“In the past, the Fianna Fáil party derived its strength as much from its roots which need to be empowered and reinvigorated, as from its leadership. There is not enough evidence that the growing tendency over recent years to centralise selection processes, whether for Dáil, Seanad or Council candidates, pays electoral dividends that would compensate for its demoralising effects on different levels of the organisation. The vigorous and undeterred electoral competition for Seanad seats underway countrywide reflects the fact that Councillors as well as Oireachtas members have votes and a healthy freedom of choice, including with respect to a published shortlist of preferred candidates, which, to be fair, however constituted, would continue to leave many areas of the country without FF Oireachtas representation for several years to come,” he said.

Dr Mansergh has been nominated by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association to contest the election on the Agricultural Panel while outgoing Senator Labhras O’Murchu, who is Director General of Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, has been nominated to run on the Cultural and Educational Panel.

Labour’s Cllr.Denis Landy and Fine Gaels Cllr. Mary Hanna Hourigan are also seeking election to Seanad Eireann as is University lecturer Paddy Healy, brother of newly elected TD Seamus Healy.

Cllr Landy has been nominated by the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) to contest the election while Cllr Mary Hanna Hourigan is one of the Fine Gael party nominated candidates. Both are first time Seanad candidates and are running for election on the Seanad’s Administrative Panel.

Cllr Landy previously contested two Dail by-elections for Labour in South Tipperary in 2001 and 2002 and is a long serving member of South Tipperary Co. Council and Carrick-on-Suir Town Council.

He is involved in the AMAI, the national representative body for town and city councillors, since 1994 and served as its President in 2001. He has been the Labour party whip on the body since 1999 and secured the organisation’s Seanad nomination by defeating candidates from other parties in a special AMAI election.

Cllr Landy said while he didn’t make it to the Dail, he believed he still had a lot to contribute on local and national issues at Seanad level and he was hopeful of succeeding because of his strong contact across all parties around the country.

Cllr Hourigan was one of three Fine Gael representatives nominated by a committee of Fine Gael Oireachtas members last Tuesday to contest the election.

Her nomination represents a significant vote of confidence by Fine Gael in Cllr Hourigan’s future prospects and is a major boost to her political profile in the constituency. She was only elected to South Tipperary Co. Council in 2009.

Cllr Hourigan said she believed the lack of female candidates and her geographical location were key factors in the Fine Gael party’s decision to nominate her to run in the Seanad election.

Indeed, just days before receiving Fine Gael party nomination, she very dramatically missed out on the deadline for nominations to run on the Seanad’s Industrial & Commercial Panel.

The National Off-Licence Association, impressed by Cllr Hourigan’s letter seeking their Seanad election nomination, decided at the last minute to put her forward for this panel.

Unfortunately, the courier delivering the nomination notice had an accident on the way to Leinster House and her nomination was 15 minutes late for submission on Friday, March 11.