2021 Seanad by-elections

Two by-elections were held for vacancies in Seanad Éireann on Wednesday, 21 April 2021.[1] The vacancies were caused by the resignations of Fine Gael's Michael W. D'Arcy from the Agricultural Panel in September 2020 to become chief executive of the Irish Association of Institute Management;[2] and of Sinn Féin's Elisha McCallion from the Industrial and Commercial Panel in October 2020 due to a COVID-19 grants controversy.[3]

Fine Gael's Maria Byrne was elected to the Agricultural Panel, and Fianna Fáil's Gerry Horkan to the Industrial and Commercial Panel.[4] Both were elected on the first count.

Election systemEdit

Ballots being tabulated

In vacancies in the Vocational panels, the electorate in by-elections consists of Oireachtas members only,[5] which will consist of 160 TDs and 58 Senators.[6] To be nominated, a candidate must have the signature of nine TDs and/or Senators.[7] Ballot papers were issued on 7 April and the polls closed at 11 am on 21 April.[6]

All votes were cast by postal ballot, and were counted using the single transferable vote. Under this system, voters can rank candidates in order of their preference, 1 as their first preference, 2 for second preference, and so on. Ballots are initially given a value of 1,000 to allow calculation of quotas (Droop quota) where all ballots are distributed in the case of a surplus.


Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael ran one candidate each in different panels, and had a voting pact to back each other's candidates.[6]

Sinn Féin did not run any candidates but backed independent Unionist Ian Marshall on the Agricultural Panel and Billy Lawless on the Industrial and Commercial Panel.[7][8][9] The Social Democrats also supported Ian Marshall on the Agricultural Panel.[10][11]

In early March 2021, the Green Party executive council, as well as the majority of their TDs and Senators, agreed not to run candidates for the Seanad by-election, but to leave each of the larger two parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, to run one candidate each, in line with an informal agreement between the three government parties.[12] However, on 22 March 2021, Hazel Chu announced her intention to run as an independent candidate. As a result, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan indicated that he would not vote for her on this occasion, and further that Chu's role as party chairperson might be discussed internally.[13][14]


Agricultural PanelEdit

2021 Seanad by-election: Agricultural Panel[4]
Party Candidate FPv% Count
Fine Gael Maria Byrne 58.4 118,000
Independent Unionist Ian Marshall 34.2 69,000
Labour Angela Feeney 7.4 15,000
Electorate: 218[a]   Valid: 202,000[a]   Quota: 101,001[a]   Turnout: 92.7%

Industrial and Commercial PanelEdit

2021 Seanad by-election: Industrial and Commercial Panel[4]
Party Candidate FPv% Count
Fianna Fáil Gerry Horkan 56.2 114,000
Independent Billy Lawless 25.6 52,000
Labour Ciarán Ahern 13.3 27,000
Independent Hazel Chu[b] 4.9 10,000
Electorate: 218[a]   Valid: 203,000[a]   Spoilt: 4,000[a]   Quota: 101,501[a]   Turnout: 94.9%
  1. ^ a b c d e f g To facilitate transfer of fractional surpluses, each valid ballot paper is given a value of 1,000.[15]
  2. ^ Chu is a member of the Green Party but stood in the election as an Independent candidate.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Seanad bye-elections 2021 list of candidates (PDF) (Report). Houses of the Oireachtas. 30 March 2021.
  2. ^ "Former junior finance minister to head funds sector lobby group". The Irish Times. 28 September 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  3. ^ "Three Sinn Féin members resign over Covid grants". RTÉ News. 29 October 2020. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Lehane, Mícheál (21 April 2021). "Byrne, Horkan elected to Seanad following by-election". RTÉ News. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  5. ^ "Ryan 'very unlikely' to accept Seanad seat". Irish Independent. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  6. ^ a b c "Hazel Chu highest profile candidate of seven in Seanad byelection". The Irish Times. 5 April 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Four former senators among candidates for Seanad byelections". The Irish Times. 12 March 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  8. ^ "Ian Marshall: Sinn Féin to support unionist in Irish senate election". BBC News. 2021-04-06. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  9. ^ McQuinn, Cormac. "Sinn Féin backing Billy Lawless in Seanad byelection race". The Irish Times.
  10. ^ Correspondent, Aoife Moore Political (March 21, 2021). "FF-FG Seanad voting pact in jeopardy as reps look to back independent candidates". Irish Examiner.
  11. ^ "Seanad By-Elections 2021: Dáil Éireann's Rotten Borough". The Burkean. April 3, 2021.
  12. ^ McQuinn, Cormac. "Eamon Ryan 'tells Greens' no pact on supporting Coalition candidates for Seanad". The Irish Times. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  13. ^ "Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will not vote for Hazel Chu in Seanad byelection". The Irish Times. 22 March 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Hazel Chu to run as independent candidate in Seanad by-election". Irish Examiner. 22 March 2021. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  15. ^ "Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Act 1947, Schedule 2, Rule 4". electronic Irish Statute Book (eISB). Retrieved 31 March 2020.