By Brian McDonnell
LABHRÁS Ó Murchú, despite being omitted from Micheál Martin’s list of preferred candidates, will take his place in the 24th Seanad - Ó Murchú (Fianna Fáil) was elected from the five-seat Cultural and Educational panel for the fourth successive time (1997, 2002, 2007 & 2011).
Speaking to the Tipperary Star Labhrás Ó Murchú described his success as “testament” to his work in the Seanad for the last 14 years: “I would regard my election to the Seanad as an acknowledgement of my experience. It’s nice to realise that in a very, very competitive campaign that my experience and my contribution to the Seanad is recognised. I feel my election is testament to my outlook and my input into the Seanad”.
Senator Ó Murchú was nominated by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
“For a lot of reasons people expected it to be a much more difficult campaign, but it was not as bad as expected,” Senator Ó Murchú said.
“A Seanad campaign, however, is always arduous since it requires you to cover the whole country. That takes about six months to accomplish and in all you are required to travel 8,000 miles.”
Senator Ó Murchú also admitted that Fianna Fáil’s election strategy complicated the election process - as a result of a strategy devised by Micheál Martin a list of ten Seanad candidates were recommended to county councillors and Oireachtas members. Micheál Martin favoured the election of younger candidates.
“The decision to recommend candidates made it more difficult because it created confusion. Most candidates, once nominated, feel that the electorate should decide who they wish to vote for. The recommendation added a second tier to the process. It was an added item that as a candidate you had to discuss. People didn’t particularly like being told what to do,” Labhrás Ó Murchú said.
“Personally I was not insulted by the strategy, but I did not regard it as a good strategy. It was a distraction and created confusion. The intended outcome was to replace all the existing senators, but anyone who understands how the Seanad works knows that you have to have experience and have an understanding of the house. It may have proven a better strategy to find a balance between experience and the ambition of youth. We should encourage others into the political system, but not at the expense of everyone else. That is not very democratic.”
As Labhrás Ó Murchú prepares for his fourth term in Seanad Éireann he is determined to involve himself fully in the workings of the house: “My approach would be to commit myself fully to the issues. In the last one hundred days of the Seanad I spoke one hundred times. I am not the sort to sit in my seat and remain mute.
“I would regard myself as an Irish Republican, that’s number one. I want to work towards a united Ireland, but I also wish to promote community-based activity. I am conscious of the difficulties people are going through at the present time. I do not believe that these problems are going to be resolved by big industry. Instead, we should concentrate on small industry; cottage industries that create two and three jobs at a time. That is the only hope we have.”
Labhrás Ó Murchú also believes that the Queen will use her forthcoming visit to his native Cashel as an opportunity to touch upon the historical differences between Ireland and her neighbours in England.
“There is no doubt that Cashel Town Council are very anxious to present the Queen with a royal Céad Míle Fáilte, but I feel responsible to reflect the view of a lot of people and hope that in her statements that she will reflect on the wrongs that were done to the Irish people,” Labhrás Ó Murchú said.
“I am reasonably confident that there will be something in her statements to reflect how things have moved on dramatically in this country. I would be very surprised if she does not touch on this issue.”
Labhrás Ó Murchú will be joined in the 24th Seanad by Carrick-on-Suir’s Denis Landy. The 49-year-old Labour Party politician was elected following a nomination by the Association of Municipal Authorities of Ireland (AMAI) on the Administrative Panel. Senator Landy was a member of Tipperary South County Council from 1991 to 2011 for the Fethard local electoral area and was also a member of Carrick-on-Suir Town Council from 1988 to 2011.
Speaking this week Senator Landy said: “As the first member of the Seanad from Carrick-on-Suir, I am thrilled to have been elected today.
“I am honoured to have the opportunity to represent the people of South Tipperary in Seanad Éireann and I will be highlighting in the Oireachtas the issues that affect the people of this constituency.
“In this regard, as a Labour Senator, I will be liaising with my party’s ministers in the key government departments on an on-going basis.
“I will work around the clock to make sure that South Tipperary and Carrick-on-Suir get their fair share at national level.
“While the economic situation that the country faces remains very challenging I am confident that with Labour in government, economic recovery and job creation, will begin to become a reality, at national level and here in South Tipperary.”
Former TD Martin Mansergh (Fianna Fáil) was among the high-profile casualties of the Seanad election.
Dr Mansergh had been nominated by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association to contest the election on the Agricultural Panel, but was not elected.
The campaigns of John Hogan (Fianna Fáil), Fine Gael’s Mary Hanna-Hourigan, Phyll Bugler and Conor Delaney and former Teachers’ Union of Ireland chief Paddy Healy, brother of recently-elected TD Seamus Healy, proved ultimately unsuccessful.
Out-going Senator John Hanafin, who contested the election on the Labour Panel, also missed out while out-going Labour Senator Phil Prendergast is preparing to replace Alan Kelly as MEP for Ireland South.