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Does it matter that the Green Party just got gifted a Seanad seat?

On Tuesday Senator Pippa Hackett signed the Roll of Members of Seanad Éireann and took her seat as a member of the 25th Seanad, following the election of Grace O’Sullivan as an MEP. We look at whether it matters that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stood aside to let the Green Party have the seat.

What are we angry about this week?

The Green Party just got gifted a Seanad seat by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Oh, did I miss out on the chance to vote?

Not exactly. 

The Seanad is made up of different panels and only the university constituency is directly elected. But you can only vote on it if you’re a graduate of the National University of Ireland (3 seats) or of Trinity (3 seats). Another 43 are voted on by TDS, the outgoing Seanad and city and county councillors across a number of panels. And then the Taoiseach gets to choose 11.

So unless you were on the Agricultural Panel you wouldn’t have had a chance to vote for Grace O’Sullivan’s replacement.

Right, so why should I care about what happens in the Seanad?

Well, the US State Department, the US Embassy in Dublin, and the Israeli Embassy in Dublin all figured that the Seanad mattered – they all lobbied Fianna Fáil to get it to withdraw support from Francis Black’s Occupied Territories Bill.

Ok, fine. So what went exactly happened?

After the European elections four TDs became MEPs, meaning there will be by elections for their seats in Cork North Central, Dublin Mid West, Fingal and Wexford. Senator Grace O’Sullivan was also elected as an MEP but there was no by election to the Seanad because all the other parties stood aside to let the Green Party keep the seat.

How do you know that? Maybe they just couldn’t be bothered running a campaign for the Seanad?

Because that’s exactly what Fiann Fáil said when they decided not to run anyone against the Green Party. The Sunday Times reported in September that “Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael both hope to be in a position to negotiate the formation of a government with the Green Party.”

The paper reported a Fianna Fáil source as saying that “We recognise it’s a Green Party vacancy and it should be filled by a Green Party candidate. […] Grace O’Sullivan was always a constructive senator and the next person will be a Green senator as well.”

Such great praise from their old coalition partners and this all happening in the same week as the O’Devaney Gardens vote?

Indeed.

Not a good look for the Green Party.

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