Ireland's newest Senator, Tom Clonan

Security analyst Tom Clonan wins the Trinity Seanad by-election

Tom Clonan, a disability campaigner, beat out Maureen Gaffney in the final count by 160 votes.

LAST UPDATE | Mar 31st 2022, 10:15 PM

SECURITY ANALYST AND columnist for The Journal, Tom Clonan, has been elected as Ireland’s latest Senator following the Trinity Seanad by-election.

“My head is spinning at the moment,” Clonan told RTÉ’s Late Debate following his election. 

He said he wasn’t at the count centre because he wasn’t expecting to be elected, and he had previous obligations to meet whistleblowers in Cork. 

“I just want to thank everybody who voted for me and the other candidates,” he said, adding that it was “such a collegiate campaign”.

Clonan beat out Maureen Gaffney in the final count to win by 160 votes, with a total of 5,358 votes. Gaffney received 5,198 votes.

Gaffney came ahead of Green Party councillor Hazel Chu in the fifteenth count, leading to Chu’s elimination.

In the final count, Clonan came out on top with the most transfers from Chu.

Early on, Hugo MacNeill, a former Irish international rugby player and chairman of the British-Irish Association, had originally topped the poll and was in the lead up until the tenth count.

He was officially eliminated after the fourteenth count, when PHD student Ursula Quill had her votes redistributed. MacNeill thanked those who voted for him, and congratulated Clonan on a “stellar” campaign, saying he will make an “outstanding” senator. 

Kildare businessman Aubrey McCarthy and DCU assistant professor Sadhbh O’Neill were eliminated on the twelfth and eleventh counts respectively.

Clonan’s son Eoghan, who is a wheelchair user, was his father’s campaign manager.

Tom Clonan said that it was almost a “protest” campaign, and that he hopes to continue to raise topics such as disability and access, as well as gender-based violence issues in his new role.

He said that independent academic senators are important to hold the Government to account, and that he takes “great inspiration” from his fellow independent Trinity senators, Lynn Ruane and his cousin, David Norris.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin congratulated Tom Clonan on winning the Seanad seat.

“No doubt you will be a strong voice and advocate for disability rights in Seanad Éireann and I wish you every success.”

The by-election is being held to fill the vacant Trinity seat caused by Ivana Bacik’s election to the Dáil. 

TD Bacik was elected last year in the Dublin Bay South constituency by-election. She was last week confirmed as the new leader of the Labour Party following the resignation of Alan Kelly. 

There were 17 candidates vying for the vacant Seanad seat. Over 67,000 Trinity graduates are registered to vote. 

Ballot papers were issued to registered electors in February and polls closed yesterday.

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer and Hayley Halpin

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