THE FORMER PRESIDENT of Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI) is looking for nine TDs or Senators to nominate him to run for the vacant seat in the Seanad.
Gerard Craughwell, 60, says he wants to run for the upper house to avoid a “sham” by-election for the seat vacated by newly-elected Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune.
Craughwell, who finished his term as TUI president in July, says he wants to exercise the right of a citizen to “put themselves forward for elected office” but he admitted “the winning of the thing is a separate issue”.
“I mean the by-election is slanted in such a way in that it makes it next to impossible for anybody to challenge for the seat,” he told TheJournal.ie today.
Vacant Seanad seats are filled through a by-election involving all 226 of the Oireachtas. This means the government, with its majority, effectively decides the successful candidate.
It is widely expected that Fine Gael will put forward a candidate whose profile they will seek to boost before running them for the Dáil in the next general election.
Filling the seat has become an imperative for the coalition in recent weeks due to it being in the minority in the upper house. It is expected the by-election will be held when TDs and Senators return from the summer recess in mid-September.
But Craughwell, a former Fine Gael member who left the party in 2009, has described the by-election as a “silly charade” and has been actively seeking support on Twitter in recent days:
He needs the backing of nine Oireachtas members to nominate him to run in the by-election even though he would almost certainly fail to get elected due to the government’s overwhelming majority.
“Why don’t they just go for the honest thing and let the Taosieach nominate a person rather than play this silly charade,” Craughwell said.
“That is repugnant in every way. Am I qualified? I would say I am eminently qualified. I have just finished a term as TUI president so I would be qualified for the educational panel.”
The father-of-two says that he wants “force as democratic election as possible” and claims he is already amassing the required support but declined to name which TDs or Senators are backing him.
Speculation about Fine Gael’s nominee has centred on a number of Dublin-based councillors and unsuccessful local election candidates.
Among the favourites are Ballymun-based councillor Noel Rock who is in a constituency where the party does not have a Dáil seat. His Dublin city council colleague Kate O’Connell, who represents Rathgar-Rathmines, has also been speculated about.
Other possible nominees are former Dublin lord mayor Gerry Breen, who lost his council seat in May, and failed election candidates Stephanie Regan and Samantha Long.