Community and Voluntary sector organisations initiate fresh approach to Seanad elections

Two Community and Voluntary sector representatives have emerged to contest the forthcoming Seanad election following an historic collaboration between the majority of nominating bodies on the Administrative Panel.

The initiative saw an advertisement placed in the national media seeking applications from those with particular knowledge and practical experience of the Community and Voluntary sector.

An Independent Selection Committee, chaired by Professor Niamh Brennan, sent successful applicants forward for an election process in which each of the boards of nominating bodies voted.

The 10 nominating bodies that have taken part in this initiative are the Center for Independent Living (CIL), Central Remedial Clinic (CRC), Co-operative Housing Ireland, Deafhear, Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), Enable Ireland, Inclusion Ireland, Irish Foster Care Association (IFCA), Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) and MS Ireland.

Following the process, which led to 35 applications, Mr John Dolan and Ms Lorraine Dempsey were chosen to be nominated by the 10 nominating bodies, each receiving five nominations.

Mr John Dolan is the CEO of the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI) and Ms Lorraine Dempsey is a parent of a child with a disability and well-known disability advocate who is also a board member of Inclusion Ireland, Chairperson of the Special Needs Parents Association (SNPA) and board member of Genetic & Rare Disorders Organisation (GRDO).

Co-operative Housing Ireland CEO Kieron Brennan said:

“It is a positive move that 10 organisations from the community and voluntary sector have come together to work on this collaborative initiative to achieve independent voices within the Seanad.

“Should John and Lorraine secure their seats as independent members of Seanad Eireann, they both have the requisite experience and knowledge to represent the social services and missions of nominating bodies.”

Center for Independent Living CEO Gary Lee said:

“Although the Constitution provides for a Seanad comprising community and voluntary representatives who could bring the benefit of their particular knowledge and practical experience to the parliamentary system, the political parties have always ensured that the seats are filled by their own people. We want to change that.

“This process has produced two excellent candidates who have the support of 10 of the nominating bodies, yet we know it will be very difficult for them to get elected given that they are up against established political parties.”

Inclusion Ireland CEO Paddy Connolly said:

“The Administration Panel nominating system was designed to facilitate civil society organisations to identify alternative voices from the voluntary and community sector for representation in the Upper House. We would request that all political parties and independent members with voting rights support the will of a majority of the nominating bodies and vote for John Dolan and Lorraine Dempsey.

“John and Lorraine are both immensely qualified to make effective and strong independent representatives in Seanad Eireann – but they face a significant challenge to be elected. Their candidacy offers those who are eager to see Seanad reform a real alternative.”

DeafHear Chairman Niall Keane said:

“John and Lorraine have the skills and lived experience to represent the community and voluntary sector in the Seanad – they have liaised with families and support groups; worked with legislation and Oireachtas committees; and both have a profile in the local and national media.

“Ultimately, John and Lorraine know how things work, they know how to advocate and they know how to get things done for organisations within the community and voluntary sector.”