The race for the Seanad elections cranked up a notch this week as a string of locally elected councillors declared their interest in winning a seat in the Government’s Upper House.
In the Fine Gael camp, Cllr Frank Kilbride was the first to say that he was holding out for a response from Taoiseach elect, Enda Kenny.
“Enda Kenny had indicated to me before the election would I be interested. I don’t know anything after that,” he said.
As the Leader went to print yesterday, Cllr John Duffy threw his hat into the ring, saying he was giving the Seanad elections “serious thought”. The Dromard representative said he fielded several phone calls on Monday night about the election race, but stopped short of confirming whether he was in the process of seeking a party nomination. Fellow Fine Gael Cllr, Micheal Carrigy was more reserved, despite commenting a week was a “long time” in politics when contacted by this newspaper on Monday.
Cllrs Alan Mitchell, Peggy Nolan, Paddy Belton, Larry Bannon and Victor Kiernan stated they would not be seeking a party nomination while Cllrs Gerry Brady and Sean Farrell were unavailable for comment.
Fianna Fail’s Martin Mulleady and Michael Connellan said they would both strongly consider mounting a challenge for election in light of party leader Micheal Martin’s preference to draft in younger candidates in the wake of last month’s disastrous general election campaign.
“I would be interested but I am waiting to hear back from the leader of the party. I won’t be looking for an outside nomination though as I don’t believe that is the right way to go,” said Cllr Mulleady, suggesting Fianna Fail and Longford were in need of added representation following the loss of Peter Kelly’s Dail seat just over a week ago.
Longford Town Councillor, Michael Connellan said that the Seanad an ideal opportunity for up and coming members of the party to have their say on the national stage.
“I would be interested but at this moment in time I am not running. I haven’t made any absolute decision but I have an interest. I am of the opinion that younger people should be elected to the Seanad and especially those than can legislative effectively. As a qualified solicitor and town councillor I would most definitely have an interest,” he said.
Cllr Tony Flaherty said: “If the opportunity arose yes of course I would be interested, but realistically there won’t be too many Fianna Fail senators elected because of the lack of Fianna Fail councillors throughout the country. Having said that, my hat will always be in the ring when it comes to furthering my career and Fianna Fail’s political influence.”
Other Fianna Fail councillors to rule themselves out of the running were Tom Victory, Denis Glennon, Luie McEntire and PJ Reilly. Cllr Padraig Loughrey was another to diffuse talk of a possible Seanad campaign, insisting instead he was quite content to remain at local authority level for the time being.
Cllr Mark Casey, who attended a meeting of non-party politicians in Athlone at the weekend aimed at securing the election of independent senators, played down rumours over his own political aspirations.
“We (independents) are not in the business of electing someone for the sake of it. We are looking for someone who will go in there and represent the opinions of independent people,” he said. Attempts to contact Cllr Mae Sexton about her own intentions were unsuccesful on Monday when voting for the 24th Seanad gets under way at the end of next month.
Nominations for the vocational panels, elected by members of the outgoing Seanad as well as incoming Dail and county and town councils, close on Friday (March 11).