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Vacant Seanad seat should be filled by someone with a unionist background, says senator

Leo Varadkar previously said he would like to see people from both nationalist and unionist communities take seats.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

ONE OF THE two vacant seats in the Seanad should be filled by a person with an Ulster unionist background, according to Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan.

The senator argues that having a “unionist voice” in the Upper House would be “helpful”, particularly given the current impasse at Stormont.

Feighan, who is on the record as believing that Ireland should consider rejoining the Commonwealth, added that in light of Brexit he believes it is “imperative from a symbolic, political and practical level that a Unionist voice is now needed more than ever in the Oireachtas”.

“The prospects of a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein regarding a proposed Irish Language Act is clearly proving to be very challenging. It is clear now that after 20 years of the Good Friday Agreement, there is political polarisation when agreement cannot be reached on restoring Northern Ireland power-sharing,” said the senator, adding:

I believe it would also be helpful for unionism to have a voice at the meetings of the Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which are held in Leinster House.
It would be very encouraging to see a member of the Westminster Parliament representing the unionist/loyalist community at these meetings to articulate the needs of their community, as the Nationalist MPs have done to great effect over the last 11 years.

The idea isn’t unheard of.

Speaking about Seanad reform earlier this month, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said people from Northern Ireland – from both nationalist and unionist communities – should be able to take seats in the Seanad, stating that it would add an “all-island dimension”.

Varadkar said having both nationalist and unionist representatives would provide “different voices on issues which concern us all”.

The Sunday Independent reported last weekend about speculation the Taoiseach intends to nominate former Ulster Farmers’ Union president Ian Marshall to the Seanad.

Read: Taoiseach says electing people from Northern Ireland will give the Seanad an ‘all-island dimension’>

Read: ‘D. R. A. F. T – not the final draft’ – Taoiseach spells out his position in row with cross-party TDs>

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