Government keeps Seanad control

The Government will retain control of the Seanad despite the loss of two seats in the election which concluded yesterday, thanks…

The Government will retain control of the Seanad despite the loss of two seats in the election which concluded yesterday, thanks to a stronger-than-expected performance by Fianna Fáil.

Labour gained two seats and Sinn Féin won its first ever seat in Seanad Éireann due to a voting pact between the two parties.

The big surprise in the election to the six university seats was the election of newspaper columnist and college lecturer Rónán Mullen, who ousted Brendan Ryan of the Labour Party to take one of the three seats in the National University of Ireland constituency.

In the election to the 43 seats available on the five vocation panels, Fianna Fáil ended up with 22, a loss of two seats, Fine Gael won 14, a loss of one, Labour won six, a gain of two, and Sinn Féin won one.

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The Taoiseach will include two Green senators and two Progressive Democrats among his 11 nominees, who are expected to be announced next week.

This will give the Government parties 33 senators, which represents a comfortable working majority in the upper house.

Last night Mr Ahern congratulated his 22 elected senators and said their success ensured the Government would retain a majority in the new Seanad.

"I wish to thank the Fianna Fáil voters, our TDs, senators and councillors who voted in such a disciplined manner, maximising the party's vote and ensuring that this result was achieved.

"I am deeply appreciative of those members of other parties, and indeed of the Independents, who supported Fianna Fáil's candidates," said Mr Ahern.

Fianna Fáil was helped by its voting pact with the Greens and the PDs, and it also benefited from Sinn Féin support on some of the panels.

That support was evident yesterday in the strong performance of first-time candidate Mark Daly from Kerry, who is believed to have taken almost all of the available 58 Sinn Féin votes.

Fine Gael surprisingly lost a seat due to bad vote management, but the party elected a crop of new senators, most of whom will be strong candidates at the next Dáil election.

Among them are Paschal Donohoe in Dublin Central, Nicky McFadden in Westmeath, Paudie Coffey in Waterford and Eugene Regan in Dún Laoghaire.

Labour had a successful Seanad election, increasing its number of seats from four to six due to its deal with Sinn Féin on three of the five vocational panels.

The election of Alex White of Dublin South, Phil Prendergast of Tipperary South, Alan Kelly in Tipperary North, Michael McCarthy in Cork South West, Brendan Ryan in Dublin North and Domnick Hannigan in Meath will give the party a good base on which to build in the next general election.

The good news for Labour was marred somewhat by the failure of Mr Ryan to retain his seat in the National University of Ireland constituency. His replacement by Mr Mullen will bring a strong Catholic voice to the Seanad.

There was some consolation for Labour in the election of party member Prof Ivana Bacik for Trinity College. While she will not take the party whip, she will retain a close association with the party.

Sinn Féin won its first seat in the Seanad with the election of Pearse Doherty from Donegal South East, widely regarded as one of the rising stars of the party and a strong candidate for the next Dáil election.