Seanad byelection: Fine Gael’s Maria Byrne and Fianna Fáil's Gerry Horkan elected

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Seanad Byelection: Fine Gael’s Maria Byrne And Fianna Fáil's Gerry Horkan Elected
Fine Gael's Maria Byrne has been elected to the Seanad Éireann. Photo: Fine Gael.
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Fine Gael's Maria Byrne and Fianna Fáil's Gerry Horkan have been elected to Seanad Éireann in two byelections.

Both of the Government's candidates were elected on the first count, as the vast majority of coalition TDs and Senators voted along party lines in the ballot.

Following a vote count this morning, former senator from Limerick Ms Byrne won the vacant seat on the Agricultural panel, with 118 votes on the first count bringing her over the quota of 102.

She beat out competition from unionist former senator Ian Marshall and Labour candidate Angela Feeney.

Mr Horkan later filled the vacancy in the Seanad’s Industrial and Commercial panel, with 114 votes out of 203 votes cast, passing the quota of 103.

Mr Horkan ran against Independent Billy Lawless, Labour’s Ciarán Ahern and Green Party chairperson Hazel Chu — who ran as an Independent.

Candidate strategy

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The electorate for byelections in the Seanad is made up of sitting Senators and TDs alone, a total of 228 voters, according to The Irish Times.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael agreed a joint candidate strategy, with each party standing just one candidate in the hope of electing both.

As the two main parties in Government had 108 TDs and Senators eligible to vote, it was expected that both Ms Byrne and Mr Horkan would be elected under the agreement.

However, the process involves a secret ballot so it remained possible that some Coalition members would not vote for the agreed Government candidates.

The two vacancies follow the resignation of Fine Gael’s Michael D’Arcy to take up a position as chief executive of the Irish Association of Investment Management.

Former Sinn Féin senator and Derry mayor Elisha McCallion resigned after it emerged she was in receipt of £10,000 (€11,600) in Covid-relief grants under the Small Business Grant scheme in Northern Ireland, for which she was ineligible.

Reaction

Following her election, Ms Byrne said: “Having spent more than two decades in elected politics, I'm honoured to be re-elected to serve in Seanad Éireann and I thank the electorate for placing their trust in me.

“I want to see more women involved and elected in politics both locally and nationally... Currently, there are many exciting projects happening in Limerick and I look forward to playing my part in seeing them progress.”

She added: “The agriculture sector has faced huge challenges in the last year with the double demands of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I look forward to continuing my work with the agri-food sector and the IFA to ensure the voices of farmers are heard clearly in Seanad Éireann and this vital sector receives the support it needs.”

Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar welcomed Ms Byrne’s election, describing her as “a passionate politician”.

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