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Explainer: There are two seats up for grabs in the Seanad today - here's what you need to know

Members of the Dáil and the Seanad will be voting by secret ballot.

Polls close today at 11am.
Polls close today at 11am.
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

YOU MIGHT HAVE missed it, but there are two Seanad by-elections taking place today.

There are different elections for two seats vacated by Labour’s Denis Landy (who resigned on health grounds) and Sinn Féin’s Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (who left to take up a role as communications manager with TG4).

Ó Clochartaigh also accused Sinn Féin of not dealing with “ongoing disciplinary issues” within the party organisation in his constituency.

When a casual vacancy occurs in the Seanad through a death, disqualification or resignation the vacancy is filled by a by-elections.

Who’s running?

Running for Landy’s seat, there is:

Mary Newman who is a veterinary practitioner (and sister of Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell), Fianna Fáil councillors Niall Blaney of Donegal County Council, and Frank O’Flynn from Cork County Council, Fine Gael Councillor Bobby O’Connell, RDS nominee Mary Redmond, and former president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and strong anti-Brexit campaigner Ian Marshall.

Marshall, who was approached by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to accept a Fine Gael nomination, has been tipped by some to take the seat.

Sinn Féin formally backed the candidate this week. Explaining why her party is supporting Marshall this week, Mary Lou McDonald said:

“Ian is a unionist. I am an Irish Republican. As I have stated repeatedly, the Ireland I want to see is one where one can comfortably be Irish or British, both or neither. I believe Ian can bring a new and interesting voice to the discussion surrounding a New Ireland.”

That wasn’t the only surprise for this grouping.

The Sunday Independent reported earlier this month that Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell confronted Tánaiste Simon Coveney as to why he was not backing her sister in the Seanad by-election.

O’Connell, as well as Newman, were vocal supporters of the Tánaiste during his attempt to defeat Leo Varadkar for the Fine Gael leadership. It is understood his move to support Marshall was not well received.

Running for Ó Clochartaigh’s seat is:

Fianna Fáil councillors Niall Blaney (who is listed on both panels) and Niall Kelleher, Former Fine Gael Kildare North TD Anthony Lawlor (proposed by the Taoiseach) and Mayor of Kildare Martin Miley.

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Who is tipped to win out? 

Both Blaney and Lawlor are tipped to do well. While Sinn Féin have backed Marshall, they have not named who else they will support.

Sources state that the Sinn Féin vote could swing it, depending who they vote for in this round.

It is not clear whether Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will do an electoral deal to divide up the votes in the by-elections.

Who can vote?

Members of the Dáil and the Seanad will be voting by secret ballot.

Nominations for the by-elections closed on 27 March, and ballot papers were issued to members on 13 April. Polls close at 11 am today.

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