Seanad Éireann is the senate of Ireland. It is the Upper House of the Oireachtas (Ireland’s national Parliament) and is located in Dublin. The lower house of the Oireachtas is the Dáil.
The Seanad is composed of 60 members known as Senators. Eleven of the Senators are nominated by the Taoiseach and 49 are elected in Seanad elections.
One Senator takes the role of Cathaoirleach (Speaker/Chairperson). The Cathaoirleach chairs proceedings in the House and must act impartially.
Senators are not officially separated into political parties. However, they usually divide into groups supporting and opposing Government business when voting on issues.
Seanad election in 2020
Following the dissolution of Dáil Eireann on 20 January 2020, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has confirmed the dates and times for the Seanad election process.
- The period for nominations by Nominating Bodies will expire at noon on Monday 24 February 2020
- The period for nominations by members of the Oireachtas will expire at noon on Monday 2 March 2020
- The Seanad Returning Officer will sit for the completion of the panels on Monday 9 March 2020
- The ballot papers will be issued to the electorate on Monday 16 March 2020
- The poll will close at 11.00 a.m. on Monday 30 March 2020
- The period for nominations in the university constituencies will expire on Friday 14 February 2020
- The ballot papers will be issued to the electorate on Friday 28 February 2020
- The poll will close at 11.00 a.m. on Tuesday 31 March 2020
What does the Seanad do?
The Seanad may propose amendments, reject or pass a Bill. The Dáil has the power to over-ride the Seanad's rejection of a Bill.
Bills that will result in government spending (known as money bills) must come from the Dáil and cannot be amended in the Seanad.
The Seanad has other functions, which it shares with the Dáil, such as the removal from office of the President or a judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal or High Court, declaring a state of emergency and annulling statutory instruments.
Who can become a Senator?
To become a Senator you must be:
- A citizen of Ireland
- Over 21 years old
You must not be:
- Serving a prison sentence of more than 6 months
- A person of unsound mind
- A judge
- A senior official of the European Union
- A civil servant
- A member of An Garda Síochána or a full-time member of the Defence Forces
How is the Seanad elected?
Forty nine of the Seanad’s 60 members are elected and 11 are nominated by the Taoiseach. Of the 49 elected members, 43 are elected from panels of candidates representing specified vocational interests. The remaining 6 members are elected by university graduates of certain universities.
A Seanad election takes place up to 90 days after Dáil Éireann has dissolved. This means that the new Dáil has assembled before the Seanad election takes place.
Seanad panel candidates
Before each general election, 5 panels are formed of candidates who have knowledge and practical experience in the following areas:
Cultural and educational panel - people involved with national language, culture, literature, art, education, law and medicine
Agricultural panel - people involved with agriculture and fisheries
Labour panel - people involved in either organised or unorganised labour
Industrial and commercial panel - people involved in industry and commerce, banking, finance, accountancy, engineering and architecture
Administrative panel - people involved with public administration and social services including voluntary social activities
Candidates for these panels are selected by either a registered nominating organisation, or by members of the incoming Dáil or outgoing Seanad.
These registered nominating organisations are mainly non-profit making and must be representative of one of the panels listed above. The register of nominating organisations (pdf) is reviewed in February each year.
The following people may vote in an election of panel members:
- Members of the incoming Dáil
- Members of the outgoing Seanad
- Members of county councils and city councils
Nominations by the Taoiseach
The Taoiseach of a new Dáil Eireann nominates 11 members of the Seanad. The Taoiseach has the final say on who is nominated, although in the case of a coalition Government it is usual for the Taoiseach to nominate some candidates on the advice of the junior coalition partner.
Under the Constitution, 2 Senators may become members of the Government. They are nominated by the Taoiseach.
Six members of the Seanad are elected by university graduates - 3 members are elected by graduates of the University of Dublin (Trinity College) and 3 are elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland (NUI).
The NUI consists of:
- University College Dublin
- University College Cork
- National University of Ireland, Galway
- Maynooth University
The NUI also awards degrees in a number of other colleges. The graduates of these recognised colleges (pdf) with NUI awards may also vote in the Seanad elections.
A full list of the institutions in the NUI Seanad Éireann constituency is available on nui.ie.
To put yourself forward as a candidate for the Seanad in the university constituency, you must be nominated by 2 registered electors for a university. Eight other registered electors for the university concerned must assent to your nomination. You do not have to be a graduate of the university concerned or be connected to it in any way. However, you must be eligible to become a Senator.
Every citizen of Ireland who is at least 18 years old and who has received a degree, other than an honorary degree, from the university concerned is entitled to vote in a Seanad election.
You do not have to live in Ireland to be registered to vote for the Seanad.
Further information and contact