Three Senate seats for Sinn Fein
Three Senate seats for Sinn Fein

Sinn Fein has secured three seats in what may be the last ever 26-County Seanad [Senate].

The trio of new senators include Sinn Fein’s 22-year-old Kathryn Reilly -- who has become the youngest ever Seanadoir in the history of the state -- as well as Conamara’s Trevor O Clochartaigh and David Cullinane from Waterford.

Despite its uncertain future, competition among budding politicos for the Seanad seats was high.

Fianna Fail, although decimated in the general election, is set to be the second largest party in the upper chamber, thanks in part to Sinn Fein transfers.

The upper chamber of the Dublin parliament was originally intended as an Irish analogue to Britain’s ‘House of Lords’.

Seats are filled through the nomination of the Taoiseach (11), selection to panels by the state’s public representatives (43), or election by the registered graduates of Trinity College and the National University of Ireland (6).

With the Taoiseach still to nominate, the breakdown among the political parties for the vocational and university panels is as follows: Fine Gael (18 seats), Fianna Fáil (14 seats), Labour (nine seats), Sinn Féin (three seats), and independents (five seats).

Amid a public outcry over the cost of maintaining the very high salaries, expenses and retirement packages for the Seanadoiri [Senators], the Fine Gael/Labour coalition government has vowed to abolish the chamber within the lifetime of the current parliament. Sinn Fein has called for the body to be deeply reformed.

Nevertheless, following the recent political breakthrough of Senator, now TD, Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein was delighted to triple its representation.

Momementum is now seen to be even stronger for Kathryn Reilly’s bid to secure a second seat in the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, while David Cullinane and Trevor O Clochartaigh will also enjoy raised profiles due to their perceived access to the corridors of power.

Speaking from Dublin following his selection, Senator Ó Clochartaigh said:

“Today is a great day for Sinn Féin in Galway West and I want to thank all those who voted for me throughout the country. I look forward to playing an important role in Sinn Féin’s enlarged Leinster House team.”

“Lá mór é seo do mhuintir Chonamara, muintir na Gaillimhe agus muintir Shinn Féin ar fud na tíre. Tá ríméad orm a bheith tofa mar Sheanadóir. Beidh mé ag obair ar mhaithe le pobail iarthar na tíre, na feirmeoirí, na hiascairí, lucht na Gaeilge agus na tuaithe.

[Today is a great day for the people of Conamara, the people of Galway and Sinn Fein across the country. I am very proud to have been elected Senator. I will be working on behalf of the people of the west of Ireland, the farmers, the fishers, Irish language speakers and rural people].

David Cullinane said he also looked forward to joining and being part of the strengthened Sinn Féin team in the Dublin parliament.

“The economy is at crisis point. Hundreds of thousands of people are out of work. Emigration is the only option for many. The banks are being bailed out to the tune of billions while ordinary people suffer.

“It is my firm belief that republican politics and ideals have never been more relevant and I intend to be a strong republican voice both inside the Seanad and out.

“I will use my elected position in the Seanad to put forward my party’s alternative vision of fairness and equality; of opposing the bank bailouts and of EU/IMF interference in our fiscal affairs; of making the wealthy pay their fair share and of bringing an end to the stale elitist brand of politics which has for so long dominated the political landscape.”

History-making Kathryn Reilly was profiled by the Irish Times following her success.

Ms Reilly, who worked for former Louth TD Arthur Morgan in Leinster House during the last Dáil, told the paper she came from a strong republican background in Ballyjamesduff, County Cavan.

“Growing up, I was immersed in the republican tradition,” she said.

“It was a way of life, more than anything else.” She did not, she said, see herself primarily as a politician.

“As a republican, I have long-term goals to secure an equal society where the most vulnerable are looked after,” she added.

“I would see winning a Dáil seat, and strengthening the party’s mandate, as part of that.”

It was important, said Ms Reilly, that Sinn Féin was a force throughout the island, helping it to work towards a united Ireland.

Ms Reilly said she was totally committed to achieving unity by peaceful means.

“I was reared during the peace process and that is all I know,” she added.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News