The only outgoing Mayo candidate in the Seanad elections, Senator Paddy Burke, was re-elected to the 24th Seanad — and the potentially last in its current form — this week on the agricultural panel. Sen Burke was one of the 11 candidates from 28 to pick up a seat.
“I’m very happy to have been elected back to the Seanad and I’m looking forward to getting back to work in the chamber,” Sen Burke told the Mayo Advertiser this week. The 56-year-old was first elected to the Seanad in 1993 and has retained his seat since that election. For the past two terms he served as Leas Cathaoirleach of the Upper House of the Oireachtas.
With his party leader and Taoiseach Enda Kenny calling for the abolition of the Seanad in the lead up to the Dáil elections, Sen Burke recognises that this could be the last term he serves, but is aware that reform is needed. “There are reforms needed to the Seanad, things have changed drastically in the country since its inception and the people will decide on this themselves in the very near future. When a referendum is put before the people, probably around this time next year, it will be up to the people in the country to decided what they want to do and I’m happy to let them make their decision on it themselves.”
While Fine Gael received unprecedented support from the public in the General Elections in February it was the hard work done before that by the party that Burke thanked for getting him re-elected to the Seanad. “While there was wind behind Fine Gael in the General Election it was a different constituent that I was looking for votes from in this election. By our good performances in the local elections in 2009, where we increased our representation on local councils, I was able to go to our elected councillors and canvas for a votes for this election.”
The Seanad has come in for much criticism because of its make up, small electorate, and powers in recent times but Sen Burke believes that it does a lot of good, unnoticed, work that people do not see. “Since its inception the Seanad has done a lot of hard scrutinising of all legislation that passes up to it from the Dáil and made a number of important changes to legislation for the betterment of the people, but people don’t pay as much attention to the Seanad as the Dáil,” he said. “But if it’s to be abolished or reformed that is what the people want.”
As to his future in politics, if the new five year term is to be his last as a senator, Burke will not be running for the Dáil, he explained. “I won’t be standing for a Dáil election, I never had and I don’t have any intention to. I’m just concentrating now on getting back into the Seanad and doing my best for the people.”
Mayo born NUIG lecturer Donnacha O’Connell was also contesting the election on the NUI panel where only three seats were up for grabs, but despite getting a very respectable first preference vote and surviving a number of counts it looked unlikely that he would take a seat when the count concluded on Thursday evening after this paper went to print.