Senator Diarmuid Wilson (FF).

FF Seanad chair election slammed as ‘strange’

A week after missing out on the potentially lucrative position of cathaoirleach of the Seanad, local Senator Diarmuid Wilson has described how the voting process was conducted as “strange”.

Sen Wilson initially won the internal Fianna Fáil vote to take the chair following a ballot of the party's 20 senators at Dublin's Convention Centre Dublin on Monday morning, June 29.

However, he ultimately lost out on the position after that process was challenged, and the position filled by drawing a name from a hat.

“Yes I believe so,” said Sen Wilson this week, when asked if Fianna Fáil party HQ should examine what advice it had taken, or indeed was given on the matter.

A brother of garda whistleblower John Wilson, and nephew of the late former tanaiste John Wilson, Sen Wilson was one of three Fianna Fáil senators campaigning for the position of cathaoirleach. The other challengers were outgoing Seanad chair Denis O'Donovan and Kerry's Mark Daly.

Each of the 20 Senators balloted had been asked to cast their vote in order of preference - one to three.

After the first round of votes were counted, Sen Daly had eight; while both Mr O'Donovan and Mr Wilson were tied on six.

Since there was no clear candidate for elimination, it was agreed to follow Seanad election procedure by examining second preference votes.

Sen Wilson had more second preferences than Sen O'Donovan, so the contest was whittled down to him and Sen Daly.

Sen Wilson received five of the eliminated Sen O'Donovan's votes; while Sen Daly only received one, making the local Oireachtas representative the winner by 11 votes to nine.

But before the result could be announced, Sen Daly's parliamentary assistant Grace Coyle queried the outcome.

Newly appointed party chief whip Darragh Calleary, as returning officer, reportedly sought legal advice, which indicated that the elimination of candidates should have occurred by drawing lots as dictated under Section 122.3 of the Electoral Act 1992.

When lots were drawn, Sen Wilson was drawn for elimination.

Sen Daly was only named winner, following yet another tie after Sen Wilson's preferences were divided, by virtue of the fact he received more first round preference votes.

The question now being asked however is whether a fresh ballot should have been taken rather than recounting the 20 votes as the second preferences were known.

Sen Wilson informed The Anglo-Celt that he is “assessing the situation" and is still “considering my options” regarding the outcome. “What happened and how it happened is very strange to say the least,” he remarked.

Sen Wilson was represented at the vote by Monaghan's Robbie Gallagher.

The position of Cathaoirleach pays €46,019 on top of a Senator's salary of €68,000.

It was agreed during government formation talks that the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad would be rotated between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael.

Fine Gael will appoint a senator to the role in 2022.

Sen Wilson has served as a Senator for the Administrative Panel since September 2002.

A member of Cavan County Council from 1999 to 2004, he was first elected to the Seanad in 2002 and re-elected each time since.

He is the Fianna Fáil whip in the Seanad and spokesperson for Labour Affairs, Trade and Commerce. He has also served as acting chair in the Seanad.

The Fianna Fail party has been contacted for comment.