A #SE16 Masterclass

Dion Davis gives a quick political seminar on how the Seanad elections will work.

The General Election has come and gone, and although we are still unsure of the outcome for a possible government, the show must go on – Seanad elections are commencing.  

Seanad Éireann elections seem long and complicated, however, this is not the case; they’re actually more accurate and quite straightforward. After a General Election the Seanad elections must take place no later than 90 days following the dissolution of the Dáil, the dates of various stages are appointed by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

The Seanad is comprised of 60 members, the breakdown of these figures is as follows:

→ 11 nominated by the Taoiseach
→ 6 elected by University graduates
→ 43 elected from panels with specified vocational interests.

There are five panels covering broad interests, the candidates must have knowledge and practical experience to be nominated for their respective panel, they include:


– Cultural and Educational
– Agricultural
– Labour
– Industrial and Commercial
– Administrative


To overcomplicate things there are two sub panels for each panel – the nominating bodies sub panel and the Oireachtas sub panel.  Let’s bring it back to basics for now, who can vote? Members with a say in the matter are those of the incoming Dáil (158 in total), members of the outgoing Seanad and members of county and city councils (949 in total).


University seats were introduced to Seanad Éireann in 1937 under Bunreacht na hÉireann and elects six members in total. There are two constituencies in this panel – National University of Ireland and University of Dublin (Trinity College), each electing three members. Other Universities are not represented but should be after the referendum in 1979 enacted the 7th amendment.


There are some familiar names and faces running in the University panels, President Michael D Higgins’ daughter Alice Mary Higgins is among those who have already put their name forward, along with former minister Michael McDowell. Also running for the three NUI seats are Ronán Mullen who is seeking re-election and Ellen O’Malley-Dunlop. Ellen is the outgoing CEO of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, passionate about women’s rights and equality.


TCDSU President Lynn Ruane is running as an Independent candidate in the University of Dublin constituency. Trinity graduates elect three members for this panel, the current three representatives include Ivana Bacik, Sean Barrett and David Norris – all three are rerunning for their seats. Along with Ruane, Averil Power has put her name in for the Seanad after unsuccessfully contesting the General Election in Dublin Bay North. Averil Power, formerly a Senator for Fianna Fáil is now contesting as an Independent for the University of Dublin panel.


Among the graduates contesting the election are past UCC graduates Laura Harmon and Luke Field. Former USI President Laura Harmon announced candidacy for the Seanad election as an Independent candidate stating that she’s running on the platform of “reform” and “modern Ireland”. Harmon played a pivotal role in the Marriage Equality Referendum with USI’s voter registration drive adding 30,000 new names to the register. The last woman elected to the NUI panel was Gemma Hussey in 1981; will 2016 be a year for change?

Another UCC graduate running for the NUI constituency panel is Luke Field, a graduate in Politics and Psychology. Both candidates are in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment and advocate to prioritise educational matters. Speaking about increased student fees and decreased supports, Field stated on his website that  “To adequately represent their constituency and help solve these problems, NUI Senators must enthusiastically make the case for education as a social good,”


As it currently stands there are thirty candidates for the NUI panel and sixteen for Trinity panel, with only 6 seats up for grabs it’s going to make for another interesting election. We wish all candidates the best of luck, especially past graduates of UCC. Ballot papers for the vocational panels will be issued on the 11th of April and will close at 11am on April 25th; ballot papers for University constituencies will be issued on March 21st and will close at 11am on April 26th. If you have a degree and are registered to vote for the NUI panel then be sure to return your ballot papers as soon as possible. The hashtag for the election is #SE16 and for more information on the Seanad you can visit: http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/about/seanad/