Seanad 2020: The NUI

And so onto the upper house. The election to fill the 26th Seanad will be completed by the the end of March, and the closing date for candidates in the NUI constituency to declare themselves was last Friday. Below is the list of candidates as I understand them, on the same basis as my previous posts on the matter, with names, website/social media links, a brief bio and a primary policy (ie, one of the first things that they talk about on their NUI profile, leaflets, accounts, etc). Only 19 candidates this time with plenty of familiar, and a few surprising, names.

Note: it has happened that I have posted outdated information about candidates, which only occurs as a result of genuine error. If such an error has occurred, please let me know in the comments below and I will amend. This refers to issues of fact, not interpretation or analysis. For those candidates who may not have social media accounts or websites up yet, I’ll check in every few days and update accordingly.

Abbas Ali O’Shea NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent and first-time candidate. Director of an educational consultancy company. Also running in the Trinity College constituency. Iraqi-born and a former refugee, O’Shea has been an Irish citizen since 2016, and is running primarily as a candidate for the (his words) “new Irish”, with a pro-immigration reform focus. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “My core motivation is to provide greater representation for Ireland’s new Irish in the Oireachtas.”

Jennifer ButlerWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent and first-time candidate. Academic with specialty in folklore and Irish paganism. Lecturer in UCC. Espouses a progressive, liberal ideology. Environmentally and culturally focused, with an emphasis on social reform. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “I stand for equality and inclusion in Irish society and for more empathic consideration of the implications of legislation and social policies.”

Ruth CoppingerWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Solidarity-People Before Profit member, first-time Seanad candidate. Former Councillor and TD, recently losing her Dail seat in Dublin West. Known for her socialist beliefs, campaigning for repeal of the 8th and association with various protest movements. Also once campaigned for Seanad abolition. Has to be considered a challenger, for name recognition reasons if nothing else.

Priority Issue: “As a longtime activist and socialist, I want to use the Seanad as a national platform to champion the many issues facing workers, women and young people.”

Eoin DelahuntyWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent and first-time candidate. An Operations Manager. Heavy environmental focus, running a non-paper campaign, and states himself to be of a liberal persuasion. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “I believe that most of the political parties are not really serious about addressing climate change. Sharing the same global perspective as many of my fellow NUI graduates, I am seeking a mandate to be a vocal champion for the change we need to make.”

Karen Devine – Website, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent, and second-time Seanad candidate, having finished 26th of 30 in 2016. International Relations Lecturer in DCU, foreign policy expert. Multiple TV/Radio appearances. Emphasis on gender in politics and increasing female representation/participation. Some anti-EU opinions, and spoke at an “Irexit” event organised by noted racist and Irish Freedom Party leader Hermann Kelly once. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “My campaign slogan “Equality within Ireland, Equality for Ireland” reflects my core beliefs in the areas of gender, education, and Ireland’s place in the European Union.”

Eva Elizabeth DowlingWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Green Party Councillor for Stillorgan, Dun Laoghaire, first-time Seanad candidate. Describes self as a “science candidate”. As you would expect, very environmentally focused, but her website/social media also has a fairly local focus as well. Not entirely sure why she is running for the Seanad. Outside bet.

Priority Issue: “If we are to tackle the major challenges currently facing our country and the wider world – such as the climate and biodiversity crises – we as politicians need to listen to scientists and place science firmly at the heart of our work.”

Garbhan Downey –  NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent and first-time candidate. Derry-based novelist and journalist, known for occasional political punditry. Obviously quite Northern focused. Standing to promote the founding a university in the north-west, apparently. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “End the North West’s 60-year wait for an independent university, which will reverse the higher education deficit, stimulate economic recovery and deliver equality.”

Mick FinnNUI Profile, Twitter

Independent Councillor for Cork City’s South-Central ward, two-time failed candidate for the Dail, first-time Seanad candidate. Former Mayor of Cork, with professional background in journalism and education. Emphasis on mental health issues, poverty and on representing Cork at a national level. Outside bet.

Priority Issue: “I am running for Seanad Eireann on this panel to progress some of the issues facing children, teenagers and Third Level students, conscious that interventions are needed in the vast majority of cases and not just those from marginalised backgrounds.”

Peter FinneganWebsite, NUI Profile, Twitter

Independent and first-time candidate. Civil servant working for Dublin City Council. Hard to get a read on his platform owing to a sprawling pitch on NUI website, but would say environmentally focused, albeit with an emphasis on just listing topics. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “I believe we can all make a difference by having the courage and the vision in giving of our time, energy, insights and experience to address the challenges our society faces today.” 

Laura HarmonWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent, second-time Seanad candidate. Came close in 2016, being the second last of 27 runners-up to be eliminated. As far as I am aware was a one-time Labour member, but not for a while. Former President of the USI, currently on the National Women’s Council. Significant player in pro-Repeal movements. LGBTQ, women’s rights and equality focused. Must be considered a challenger.

Priority Issue: “I will be a fresh voice for progressive values and reforming our political system for a modern, inclusive Ireland.”

Michelle HealyWebsite, NUI Profile, Twitter

Independent, first-time Seanad candidate. Member of UCC’s governing body, with experience working with the United Nations and various NGO’s. Very equality and social justice focused. Outside bet.

Priority Issue: ” If elected I will prioritise issues of social justice, equality, and sustainability.”

Rory HearneWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent, former People Before Profit, and second-time Seanad candidate, having finished a respectable 11th of 30 in 2016. Unsuccessful GE candidate in 2007. Former TASC “Policy analyst” on social issues, currently a lecturer in Maynooth. Former Trinity SU President. Describes self as holding “broad and progressive left-wing views”. Big emphasis on housing and homelessness issues. Mid-pack.

Priority Issue: “The housing and homelessness crisis is one of this country’s major societal challenges and I have the experience, expertise, and passion to make a major contribution in the Seanad to solving it.

Alice-Mary HigginsWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent (but with obvious links to Labour), and sitting Senator since 2016. Ran unsuccessfully for an MEP seat in Dublin last year. Has been active enough, or as active as you can be, in the Seanad and on Oireachtas committees, for the last three years, holding liberal, progressive views. Certainly must be considered a favourite to retain, but not quite as secure with Coppinger running.

Priority Issue: “In my Seanad and Committee work, I have advocated for decent work and investment in care.”

Marcus MatthewsWebsite, NUI Profile

Independent, first-time candidate. Managing Director of the Regional Internet Service Providers Association. Claims to want to apply an empirical approach to Ireland’s problems, and has appeared before Oireachtas Committees on the subject of the National Broadband Plan. Not entirely sure where he lands on the political spectrum. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “My desire is to revitalize the NUI constituency and focus on issues that are in the collective national interest.”

Michael McDowellWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent and sitting Senator since 2016. Former TD, Minister, leader of the Progressive Democrats and Attorney General. Political alignment is the source of some debate, but I’ll limit myself to “He’s alright, now, mostly”. Hasn’t made much of a stir in the Upper House it is fair to say, though I did appreciate some of his contributions to constitutional debates. Very likely to be returned.

Priority Issue: “When the late Feargal Quinn asked me to stand as his successor in Seanad Éireann nearly four years ago, it was on the basis of our shared commitment to strengthen Seanad Éireann and to secure reform of its system of election in the aftermath of the failed attempt to abolish it. That commitment remains my primary focus.”

Ronan MullenWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook, Twitter

Independent, sitting Senator since 2007. Known for his hard conservative and pro-life views, that have not abated in the slightest over the last three years. Founder of the Human Dignity Alliance, a qausi-political party of which he is the only public representative. Very likely to be returned, more’s the pity.

Priority Issue: “I defend the values I believe in and that matter to hundreds of thousands of Irish people – respect for life and quality of life, support for the family which is critical to children’s growth and development, and State structures to support, not control, people’s lives.”

Brendan Mary PriceWebsite, NUI Profile, Facebook

Independent, seventh-time candidate for the Seanad, failing every time (and in one MEP run). 14th of 30 last time. CEO of the Irish Seal Sanctuary. Despite indicating that 2016 would be the electorate’s “last chance” to vote for him, here he is again. Environmentally focused. Mid-pack.

Priority Issue: Hard to find, or to pick something specific from his disjointed website, but I’ll go with his statement calling on us to “Think of Eco-tourism as a primary driver of economic and sustainable development. Think of sustainability practises, now of necessity, part of all human and economic activity, for further new opportunities. Think of Brendan’s own role in these areas and ultimate successes.”

Keith ScanlonWebsite, NUI Profile

Independent, first-time candidate. An electrical engineer. Environmentally focused, noted for his part in campaigns on that theme in County Wicklow. Not much of an online presence otherwise. Unlikely to seriously challenge.

Priority Issue: “I’m asking to be your Independent Voice in Seanad Éireann to protect our young people from the threat of impending climate, biodiversity and community collapse.”

Anne Staunton Barrett  –  NUI Profile

Independent, first-time Seanad candidate. A retailer. Community activist. Claims to be “non-political”. Equality and human rights focused.

Priority Issue: In an interview with the Connacht Telegraph: “There is a need to restore respectful comment by removing the anonymity of the internet and encourage civic responsibility by promoting tolerance, inclusion and the dignity of every individual.”

Even with a reduced number of candidates on previous years, it would seem the most likely outcome is for the three sitting Senators to be returned. McDowell is pretty much a shoe-in for name recognition reasons if nothing else, undeniably the biggest asset in a race of this nature, where the amount of names on offer tends to dull the senses. Ronan Mullen, as far as I can see the only out-and-out conservative in a field groaning under the weight of left-wing environmentalist progressives, will stroll to another stint in the comfy chairs of Leinster House’s Seanad room, through his notoriety and sole appeal to a wide swath of voters. I’m sure there are lots of candidates and lots of voters who would love to see Mullen gone, but that is not going to be accomplished by a field packed with people of a similar ideology, who are incapable of organising transfer policies whereby they will benefit each other.

Higgins’ seat is the only one that might be under threat, from the twin assault of Coppinger and Harmon. Despite her recent loss in Dublin West, Coppinger will attract a lot of left-wing voters, with a national profile that can be considered larger than Higgins’. Harmon too has grown in stature over the last three years, and would only need 600 or so more votes than her 2016 FPV to overtake Higgins. Has Higgins managed to make enough of an impact over the previous term to mitigate against this? Her showing in the Dublin MEP vote last May, finishing 10th of 19 and ending up closer to Gemma O’Doherty than a seat, does not bode well.

I’ll have a post sometime next month where I will talk about who I will vote for, but for now I will predict that McDowell and Mullen will be returned, and that Coppinger will take the last seat. I have yet to be disabused of the notion that a measure of fame is a bigger deal in these votes than anything else, and Coppinger has that over both Higgins and Harmon.

Let the quasi-campaign begin in earnest.

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3 Responses to Seanad 2020: The NUI

  1. Breda Corish says:

    Thank you very much for assembling the candidate links. I was going down a Google rabbit hole trying to locate key information not included on the NUI Candidate Profiles webpages – you’ve saved me hours of time!

  2. Pingback: Who I’m Voting For In The 2020 Seanad Election | Never Felt Better

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