The new Seanad is almost here – here’s what it is and how it works

If you’ve been online in the last few weeks, you’ve probably heard of the Seanad. But what is it? How does it work? Can you find toilet roll there? (probably) We reveal it all. Here’s all you need to know about the Seanad.

What is the Seanad?

The Seanad is the upper house of the Houses of the Oireachtas. The main function of the Seanad is to debate legislation proposed by the Government. Senators can also introduce their own Bills, which are debated in the Seanad and, if passed, are then debated in the Dáil.

The voting system used to elect Senators has been criticized by several groups, including the Seanad Reform group, who brand it elitist and unfair. The group has been asking candidates for the Seanad to sign their Seanad Reform Pledge, which reads: “If elected to the 26th Seanad, I pledge: to pursue and vote for the enactment of the Seanad Bill 2018 as an immediate priority.”

The proposed bill would allow all Irish citizens to have a vote for the Seanad and enact the 7th Amendment to the Constitution, which would “extend Seanad representation to graduates of other third-level institutions”. The amendment was passed in a referendum with over 90% of the vote in 1979.

How many seats are in the Seanad and how are they elected?

There are 60 seats in the Seanad. Of those 60, 6 are elected by university graduates – 3 are elected from Trinity College Dublin and 3 are elected from NUI (NUI Maynooth, NUI Galway, University College Cork and University College Dublin).

43 Senators are elected by vocational panels. There are 5 panels.

  • Cultural & Educational: 5 Senators are elected from this panel
  • Administrative: 7 Senators are elected from this panel
  • Industrial & Commercial: 9 Senators are elected from this panel
  • Agricultural: 11 Senators are elected from this panel
  • Labour: 11 Senators are elected from this panel

These panels have 2 sub-panels, one where bodies nominate candidates & another where incoming TD’s and outgoing Senators nominate candidates.

There are 60 seats in the Seanad and 43 are selected through vocational panels

Who gets to elect candidates from the panels?

  • All county and city councillors (949 councillors)
  • All outgoing senators (60 senators)
  • All incoming TD’s (160 TD’s)

Who gets to elect people from the NUI and Trinity panels & how does it work?

Graduates from NUI Maynooth, NUI Galway, University College Cork and University College Dublin get to elect people from the NUI panel. Graduates from Trinity can vote for candidates on the Trinity panel. Their vote comes in the post, and they return it by post. You will need a witness, it can be anyone who is over 18.

Who is running for the NUI panel?

Ali O’Shea, AbbasDirector of AFA Consultancy
Butler, JenniferAcademic – University Lecturer
Coppinger, RuthTeacher, Campaigner for Workers’ and Womens Rights and Climate Justice
Delahunty, EoinOperations Manager
Devine, KarenUniversity Lecturer
Dowling, Eva ElizabethScience Communicator and County Councillor
Downey, GarbhánPublisher
Finn, MickYouth Officer, Cork ETB: Cork City Cllr (Ind); Former Lord Mayor, Cork City (2018/19)
Finnegan, PeterChange Leader, Member Maynooth University Governing Authority; Meditator; Poet
Harmon, LauraLeadership Coordinator, National Women’s Council of Ireland
Healy, MichelleMember of University College Cork Governing Body; Project Manager
Hearne, RoryLecturer/Assistant Professor Social Policy, Maynooth University
Higgins, Alice-MarySenator, Advocate for Equality and Environment
Matthews, MarcusManaging Director
McDowell, MichaelSenator and Senior Counsel
Mullen, Rónán ThomasFull-time Public representative (Senator)
Price, Brendan MaryB. Agr. Sc, member, Biol. Inst. Ireland; CEO Irish Seal Sanctuary
Scanlon, KeithElectric and Electronic Engineer
Staunton Barrett, AnneRetailer with a Degree in Management Information Systems, NUI Galway

The Poll will close on Tuesday 31 March at 11.00am.

Who is running for the Trinity panel?

Ali O’Shea, AbbasDirector of AFA Consultancy
Bacik, IvanaSenator
Byrne, DerekAcademic/Media Professional
Clonan, TomAcademic, Journalist
MacNeill, HugoConsultant, Non Profit
Norris, DavidSenator
O’Gorman, JosephCompany Director/Administrator, Central Societies Committee, Trinity
Priestly, WilliamGreen Party County Councillor
Ruane, LynnPublic Representative
Scanlon, KeithElectrical and Electronic Engineer

Who is running for the Cultural and Educational panel?

Nominating Bodies Sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Byrne, MalcolmHead of Communications Higher Education Authority; Former Dáil Deputy.The Drama League of Ireland
Conroy, DeirdreCouncillor, Barrister, Architectural Historian.The Irish Georgian Society; The Council of the Bar of Ireland
Conway, JoeCollege Tutor; City and County CouncillorGenealogical Society of Ireland & Teacher’s Union of Ireland
Curley, ShaneAssociation of Secondary Teachers, Ireland.Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland.
Feeney, KateCounty Councillor; Chartered AccountantInstitute of Guidance Counsellors
Flynn, AngelaPresident of the Irish Federation of University TeachersIrish Federation of University Teachers
Kyne, SeánAire Stáit don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do na hOileáin; Seanadóir.Údarás na Gaeltachta
Maher, Michael “Moegie”Chairperson of Galway and Roscommon Education and Training BoardEducation and Training Boards Ireland
McFadden, GabrielleSenator.Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Mulcahy, JackPublisher of Arts and Literacy related PublicationsWriters’ Guild of Ireland
Newman Julian, MaryVeterinary PractitionerComhairle na d’Tréidlia Veterinary Council
Walsh, ÉamonnAbhcóide; MA sa Gaeilge FheidhmeachGael Linn CTR
Warfield, FintanSenator; MusicianNational Youth Council of Ireland;
Comhlámh & Theatre Forum CLG.

Oireachtas Sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Breathnach, DeclanFormer Dáil Deputy; Former County
Councillor; Primary School Principal.
Deputies Willie O’Dea, Thomas Byrne
and Anne Rabbitte and Senator Aidan
Chambers, LisaFormer Dáil Deputy; Former County
Councillor; Barrister.
Deputies Dara Calleary, James O’Connor
and Niamh Smyth and Senator Paul Daly
Lawless, PaulTeacher.Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill, Deputies
Carol Nolan, Cathal Berry and Peadar
McGahon, JohnPublic Representative.Deputies Colm Brophy, Martin Heydon,
Alan Farrell and Charles Flanagan.
McHugh, SaoirseEnvironmentalist.Deputies Marc Ó Cathasaigh, Eamon
Ryan, Neasa Hourigan and Malcolm
Murphy O’Mahony, MargaretFormer Dáil Deputy, Former SNA.Deputies Pádraig O’Sullivan, Jackie
Cahill, Mary Butler and Barry Cowen
Neville, TomFormer Dáil Deputy; Actor; Former
Senators Tim Lombard, Gabrielle
McFadden and Maria Byrne and Deputy Paul Kehoe.

Who is running for the Agricultural panel?

Nominating Bodies Sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Blaney, NiallFormer Farmer, Former Dáil Deputy and Councillor.National Association of Regional Game Councils.
Burke, PaddySenator.Irish Co-operative Organisation Society Limited.
Byrne, MariaSIrish Grain and Feed Association.
Cantillion, DermotFarmer, BAgSc MSc.The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.
Coyle, SeamusMember of Monaghan County Council.The Dairy Executives’ Association.
Daly, PaulSenator; Farmer.Agricultural Science Association.
Deering, PatPublic Representative.The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.
Hannigan, DominicWhiskey Distiller; Livestock feed provider; Former Public Representative; Professional Engineer.Irish Grain and Feed Association.
Lombard, TimSenator.Munster Agricultural Society Company Ltd.
Marshall, IanSenator;Farmer; Agri-Specialist.Agricultural Science Association.
McEillistrim, ThomasFarmer; Former Public Representative.National Association of Regional Game
Mulcahy, RichardBusinessman; Farmer.Royal Dublin Society.
Ó Domhnaill, BrianSenator.Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders
O’Donovan, DenisSenator.Munster Agricultural Society Company Ltd & Irish Greyhound Owners and Breeders
O’Keeffe, KevinFormer Dáil Deputy.The Dairy Executives’ Association.
O’Reilly, Shane P.Member of Cavan County Council.Irish Co-operative Organization Society Limited.

Oireachtas sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Boyhan, VictorSenator; Horticulturist.Senators Michael McDowell, David
Norris, Billy Lawless and Victor Boyhan
Boylan, LynnEcologist; Former MEP.Deputies David Cullinane, Donnchadh
Ó Laoghaire, Martin Browne and Sorca
D’Arcy, MichaelFarmer; Former Dáil Deputy.Deputies Joe Carey, Brendan Griffin and
Peter Burke and Senator Maura Hopkins.
Dolan, AislingCounty Councillor; Project Manager NUI
Deputies Michael Ring, John Paul Phelan
and Ciarán Cannon and Senator Paul
Hackett, PippaFarmer; Senator.Deputies Steven Matthews, Francis Noel
Duffy and Patrick Costello and Senator
Pippa Hackett.
Hoey, AnniePublic Representative.Senators Kevin Humphreys and Ivana
Bacik and Deputies Paul Donnelly and
Duncan Smith.
Kent, PatrickFarmer.Deputies Verona Murphy, Matt Shanahan,
Richard O’Donoghue and Michael
Murphy, EugeneFormer Dáil Deputy, Former County Councillor.Deputies James Lawless, John
McGuinness and Éamon Ó Cúiv and
Senator Gerry Horkan.
Murray, GerryMember of Mayo County Council.Deputies Louise O’Reilly, Pearse Doherty,
Matt Carthy and Dessie Ellis.

Who is running for the Labour panel?

Nominating Bodies Sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Craughwell, GerardSenator; Teacher.The Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations.
Gallagher, RobbieSenator; Estate Agent.The Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations.
Gavan, PaulSenator.Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Hanafin, JohnFinancial Broker; Barrister at Law.The Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations.
Harkin-Kelly, MartinaPresident of INMO; Member of INMO National Executive Council; Member of ICTU Women’s Committee.Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Leyden, OrlaCouncillor.The Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations.
O’Rourke, AengusCouncillor.The Irish Conference of Professional
and Service Associations.
O’Sullivan, NedSenator; Teacher.The Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations.
Sherlock, MarieCity Councillor, Head of Equality and Policy at SIPTUIrish Congress of Trade Unions.
Symth, MichaelSenior Vice President of Fórsa Trade Union, Co-ordinator School Completion Programme in
Dublin 20.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions.
Walshe, SarahPublic Servant; Ex Officer; Complaints Manager
The Irish Conference of Professional and Service Associations.

Oireachtas sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Buttimer, JerrySenator; Teacher.Deputy Eoghan Murphy, Senators John
O’Mahony, Michelle Mulherin and Paudie
Casey, PatFormer Dáil Deputy; Former County
Councillor; Hotelier.
Deputies James Browne, Jim O’Callaghan,
Joe Flaherty and Seán Haughey.
Cassels, ShaneFormer Dáil Deputy; Former County
Deputies Charlie McConalogue, Jack
Chambers, Cathal Crowe and Stephen
Cummins, JohnTeacher; Councillor.Deputies Hildegarde Naughton, Josepha
Madigan and Helen McEntee and Senator
Anthony Lawlor.
Devine, MáireSenator.Deputies Kathleen Funchion, Rose Conway-Walsh, Seán Crowe and Johnny Guirke.
Flynn, EileenNational Development Officer with
National Traveller Women’s Forum
Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith,
Gino Kenny and Thomas Pringle.
O’Reilly, JoeSenator; Former Teacher.Senators Seán Kyne, Jerry Buttimer, Marie-Louise O’Donnell and Paddy Burke.
O’Reilly, PaulineCity Councillor.Deputies Catherine Martin, Ossian Smyth,
Brian Leddin and Joe O’Brien.

Who is running for the Industrial and Commercial Panel?

Nominating Bodies Sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Allen, Declan JamesTU Dublin Senior Lecturer in Logistics and Worldskills Expert.Freight Transport Association Ireland CLG.
Blain, EmmaCounty Councillor.The Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland.
Byrne, DannyCity Councillor.Irish Road Haulage Association.
Collins, ÁineFormer Dáil Deputy; Certified Public Accountant; Chairperson British Irish Trade Alliance (BITA).The Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland.
Connor-Scarteen, PatrickCounty Councillor; Estate Agent; Qualified Financial Advisor; Solicitor.The Association of Advertisers in Ireland Limited.
Corr, JoeTown Planner; Former County Councillor; Past President Irish Planning Institute.Irish Planning Institute; The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland; Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.
Crowe, OlliePublic Representative; Businessman.Vintners’ Federation of Ireland Limited.
Davitt, AidanSenator; Auctioneer.The Institute of Professional Auctioneers & Valuers.
Dooley, TimmyFormer Public Representative.Nursing Homes Ireland; Independent Broadcasters of Ireland; The Irish Postmasters’ Union; The Restaurants Association of Ireland; The Construction Industry Federation.
Geoghegan, JamesFormer Public Representative.ISME: Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association.
Griffin, ArthurBarrister; Former Company Director.The Irish Computer Society;
Hardware Association Ireland;
Irish Business and Employers Confederation
Horkan, GerrySenator; Chartered Accountant.Licensed Vintners’ Association.
Hunt, PatrickChartered Engineer and Fellow of
Engineers Ireland; Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer
The Institution of Engineers of Ireland.
Hynes, PatCounty Councillor; Former Business
Owner; Member of Institute of Industrial
Institute of Industrial Engineers.
Kelleher, GarretCork City Councillor.Retail Excellence.
Kinsella, PatrickSelf-employed Entrepreneur.National Off-Licence Association.
MacSharry, TomPublic Representative; Solicitor.The Chambers of Commerce of Ireland CLG
t/a Chambers Ireland;
Wholesale Produce Ireland;
Credit Union Development Association Cooperative Society Ltd. (CUDA).
Noone, CatherineSenator.Irish Country Houses and Restaurants
O’Brien, PatsyCouncillor, Company Director.The Electrical Industries Federation of
O’Shea Farren, LindaArts Manager; Disability Rights and Equality Lawyer; Company Director.Cumann na nGníomhairí Paitinne agus
Marcanna Trádála (Association of Patent
and Trade Mark Attorneys).
Sheahan, TomFormer Public Representative; Business owner.The Society of the Irish Motor Industry.
Timmins, EdwardCounty Councillor; Chartered Accountant.Irish Exporters Association Limited.
Vaughan, Michael AnthonyProprietor Vaughan Lodge Hotel; Former
President of the Irish Hotels Federation.
Irish Hotels Federation;
Irish Tourism Industry Confederation;
Irish Hospitality Institute;
The Caravan Camping and Mobile Home
Society Limited.
Ward, BarryPublic Representative; Barrister.RGDATA-Retail, Grocery, Dairy and Allied
Trades Association.

Oireachtas sub panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Ardagh, CatherineSenator; Former City Councillor.Deputies Niall Collins and Michael McGrath, Senators Catherine Ardagh and Terry Leyden.
Black, FrancisCEO of the Rise Foundation; Senator; Professional Singer.Senators Colette Kelleher, Lynn Ruane, Alice-Mary Higgins and Frances Black.
Carrigy, MicheálPostmaster; County Councillor.Deputies Neale Richmond, Fergus O’Dowd and Damien English and Senator Joe O’Reilly.
Dineen, NigelCounty Councillor.Deputies Michael Fitzmaurice and Marian Harkin, Senators Rónán Mullen and Ian Marshall.
Keogan, SharonBusinesswoman, Public Representative.Senators Gerard P. Craughwell and Joan Freeman, Deputies Mattie McGrath and Peter Fitzpatrick.
McCallion, ElishaFormer MP for Foyle.Deputies Pauline Tully, Chris Andrews, Martin Kenny and Eoin Ó Broin.
O’Shea, John PaulPublic Representative.Deputies Michael Creed, Simon Coveney, Simon Harris and Paschal Donohoe.
Ó Tuathail, NiallHealthcare Reform Advisor.Deputies Catherine Murphy, Róisín Shortall,
Jennifer Whitmore and Holly Cairns.
Tolan, SharonCounty Councillor.Senators Martin Conway and James Reilly,
Deputies Colm Burke and Bernard Durkan.
Wall, MarkPublic RepresentativeDeputies Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Alan Kelly,
Seán Sherlock and Michael McNamara.

Who is running for the Administrative panel?

Nominating Bodies sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Cahill, MickCounty Councillor.Association of Irish Local Government.
Conama, John BoscoDeaf; Irish Sign Language User;
Academic; Assistant Professor TCD.
National Association for the Deaf;
Irish Deaf Society – National Association of
the Deaf.
Conway, MartinSenator.National Council for the Blind.
Daly, MarkSenator.The Irish Kidney Association Company
Dolan, JohnPerson with a disability; CEO Disability
Federation of Ireland; Senator.
Disability Federation of Ireland;
The Multiple Sclerosis Society of Ireland;
Enable Ireland Disability Services Limited;
Care Alliance Ireland;
Central Remedial Clinic;
Inclusion Ireland – National Association for
People with an Intellectual Disability;
Flanagan, Anne-MarieMental Health Professional; Social Justice
Centre for Independent Living Limited.
Geoghegan, TonyFormer CEO of Merchants Quay Ireland;
Human Rights Commissioner.
Co-operative Housing Ireland Society Ltd.
Malone, JoeCounty Councillor Kilkenny County
Local Authority Members’ Association.
Mbugua Henry, SalomeCEO Migrant Women’s Network in
Ireland (AkiDwA).
The Immigrant Council of Ireland.
O’Loughlin, FionaFormer Dáil Deputy;
Primary School Teacher.
The Alzheimer Society of Ireland.

Oireachtas sub-panel

NameDescriptionNominated by
Ahearn, GarretCounty Councillor.Deputies Kieran O’Donnell, David Stanton, Heather Humphreys and Patrick O’Donovan.
Clifford-Lee, LorraineSenator; Solicitor.Deputies Michael Moynihan, Micheál Martin, John Lahart and Robert Troy.
Currie, EmerCounty Councillor.Deputies Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Alan Dillon, Frank Feighan and Emer Higgins.
Hogan, Timothy J.Human Rights Activist; Community Development Co-ordinator.Deputies Mick Barry, Joan Collins, Paul Murphy and Catherine Connolly.
Moynihan, RebeccaDublin City Councillor; Teacher.Deputies Ged Nash, Brendan Howlin, Denise Mitchell and Roderic O’Gorman.
Ó Donnghaile, NiallSenator.Deputies Darren O’Rourke, Claire Kerrane, Imelda Munster and Ruairí Ó Murchú.
Rock, NoelFormer Dáil Deputy.Deputies Joe McHugh, Leo Varadkar and Richard Bruton and Senator Catherine Noone.
Welby, Thomas JPublic Representative.Deputies Denis Naughten, Michael Healy- Rae, Michael Lowry and Noel Grealish.
Wilson, DiarmuidSenator.Senators Robbie Gallagher, Diarmuid Wilson and Keith Swanick and Deputy Brendan Smith.

Can the caretaker Taoiseach appoint Senators?

No. Leo Varadkar and his government resigned after the vote in the Dáil back in February, when no party leader was elected as Taoiseach. In accordance with Article 28.11 of the Constitution, although he has resigned – he remains Taoiseach and his Ministers remain in government until a new government is appointed.

Think of it as you’ve resigned from your workplace, but your boss asks you to stay on until they find a replacement. You’re there until someone replaces you. Now your boss tells you, you can’t make some decisions that you could make before.

That’s what’s happening here. Leo’s still the Taoiseach, but he’s kinda not. He can’t appoint members to the Seanad, but he can still lead the country’s response to Covid-19.

However, if Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil form a coalition government as is currently being speculated and Varadkar remains Taoiseach, then he can appoint members to the Seanad. In his current situation however, he can’t.

Patrick O'Briain

Patrick is's Editor in Chief. He is the publication's editorial leader and heads all departments of the organization. He regularly contributes feature pieces. If you wish to contact Patrick, do so by emailing or DM'ing him on Twitter at @PatrickOBriain.

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