'Missed opportunity' over failure to nominate northerners to Seanad
THE new Irish government has been criticised for failing to nominate a northern voice to the Seanad.
Ian Marshall, who in 2018 became the first unionist elected to the upper house of the Oireachtas, claimed the decision meant "any talk of a shared island is just a farce".
The 11 nominations to the chamber included Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Green Party members, reflecting the new coalition government, while Eileen Flynn becomes the first person from the Traveller community to join the senate.
However, despite praise for including nine women - including Emer Currie, daughter of Dungannon-born SDLP founder and former Fine Gael TD Austin Currie - the new taoiseach Micheál Martin did not nominate anyone from north of the border.
It was thought that Co Derry citizens' rights campaigner Emma DeSouza would be included, following her high-profile battle with the British Home Office over a residency application for her US-born husband Jake.
Describing the "heavy blow" when the Seanad nominations were revealed, she said: "Taoiseach Micheal Martin did confirm on Saturday that there will be a newly formed unit within the Department of an Taoiseach to work towards a consensus on a shared island, but this announcement was followed by the row-back on a northern nomination, immediately undercutting the concept of a shared island and reigniting fears that we in the North will be left behind."
The previous Seanad included Co Armagh-born farmer Ian Marshall, who was elected to the house with the support of Sinn Féin but lost his seat earlier this year.
At the time of his nomination, he described the move as "hugely significant".
On learning that no unionists would be among the new senators, he said: "This a huge missed opportunity and sends a very clear message to the unionist community that they have no role play down south. How can you have a shared island if you only talk to yourself?
"The three party leaders all talked about change and renewal and yet they turn their backs on unionists and any talk of a shared island is just a farce."
Sinn Féin president and Dáil opposition leader Mary Lou McDonald said it is important northern society is represented within the Oireachtas.
"I also think it is important that people from a unionist tradition are included. So that is a disappointment."
The new senators are: Mary Fitzpatrick, Lorraine Clifford Lee, Erin McGreehan, Timmy Dooley, Regina Doherty, Aisling Dolan, Emer Currie, Mary Seery Kearney, Vincent P Martin, Róisín Garvey and Eileen Flynn.
Fine Gael's Regina Doherty, who served a minister for social protection in the last government, was named as the new Leader of the Seanad.