SU president Lynn Ruane takes final TCD Seanad seat

Incumbents David Norris and Ivana Bacik were returned to the house, but Sean Barret missed out on a seat


The fifteenth and final count for the TCD Seanad panel has seen Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union president Lynn Ruane take the third and final seat, after incumbents David Norris and Ivana Bacik placed first and second respectively. She was elected with 3,344 votes.

The long processing of postal votes began at 10 am Tuesday in Trinity’s Public Theatre, with polls closing an hour later at 11 am Norris’s election was announced just before 1 am Wednesday morning, receiving 4,070 first preference votes, exceeding the quote of 4,017. With the total valid poll set at 16,064, Norris took home 25.4% of first preference votes.

Norris told Trinity News yesterday that even with recent illness, he didn’t find the campaign too difficult. “I had to confine myself to sending out a manifesto and relying on my record in the senate”, he said. With talk turning to the tallies Norris added “Sean Barrett’s seat is in difficulty, and if he doesn’t get it it’s a travesty because he’s been absolutely brilliant in the senate and a delight to work with.”

On the first count Ivana Bacik received 2,853 votes or 17.8%, falling short of the quota but still comfortably ahead of Ruane, Power and Barrett who received 8.6%, 8.4% and 8.2% of first preference votes respectively. Bacik gained most from Norris’s surplus votes, gaining an extra 18.

The third seat for a long time on Tuesday night into Wednesday was a close three-way race between Lynn Ruane, Averil Power and incumbent senator Sean Barrett. 

Maeve Cox was the first candidate to be eliminated, with her transfers going mostly to Ruane, the Bacik followed by Power. Eoin Meehan and Edward Davitt were eliminated in following counts, their transfers going mostly to environmental candidates Oisín Coghlan and William Priestly.

On the third count the gap between Ruane and Power began to widen, with Ruane being more transfer friendly. Sean Melly’s transfers saw Sean Barrett pull ahead of Ruane on the eighth count. On the tenth count, Ruane pulled back and maintained a lead with heavy transfers from eliminated candidate and former TCDSU president William Priestley.

After a long count and remaining transfer friendly, Ruane was declared elected on the fifteenth count. She becomes the first candidate to unseat a Trinity incumbent in decades, taking the seat previously held by Sean Barrett who finished with 3,228 votes.

Ruane was joined at the count centre by her family, including her two children and her mother, along with supporters from the Union of Students in Ireland, who earlier in the campaign officially endorsed her bid.

Barrett misses seat

Speaking to Trinity News, Barrett said that during the campaign, the thing which had struck him most was the amount of Trinity graduates who had emigrated, and outlined meeting many parents on the doors. “The numbers of new graduates who have emigrated is very striking, the voters in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada. That and the general decline in peoples’ living standards…I can see the unhappiness that the government found when they went to the people on the platform that there was prosperity, I think a lot of people have not felt that prosperity.”

Like Bacik, Barrett’s first Seanad campaign came almost a two decades ago in the 1997 election. There he placed fourth, and in 2002 he finished fifth. After sitting out the 2007 election he was elected to the Seanad in 2011 with 3,065 votes on the eighteenth and final count. He had come fourth in terms of first preference votes and was at one point 300 votes behind Tony Williams, but on the fifteenth count, Barrett pulled ahead.

Norris is the longest-standing senator on the TCD panel. A long-time civil rights campaigner, he was first elected to the Seanad in 1987. In 1988, after previous rulings against him in the Irish courts, the European Court of Human Rights struck down Ireland’s criminalisation of homosexuality in the Norris v. Ireland case.

Norris has remained a highly visible public figure in recent years, most notably for his role in last year’s marriage referendum campaign, and his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2011.

Bacik is the second longest standing member of the TCD panel, having been elected to the Seanad in 2007 and re-elected in 2011. During her term she was deputy leader of Seanad Éireann as well as a leader of the Labour group.

She is currently the Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at the college, a qualified barrister, and a senior lecturer and fellow. She was the President of the Students’ Union here in Trinity for the college year of 1989-90, during which she was taken to court for providing information to women on abortion. 

Current president of TCDSU, Lynn Ruane is likely the most well-known Seanad candidate to current TCD students. Elected to the position last February with over 42% of the first-preference vote, Ruane ran on a platform of reducing inequality and increasing access to higher education.

After leaving school at the age of 15, she spent a number of years working in addiction services and counselling, before coming to Trinity to study PPES through the Trinity Access Programme. She has been extremely active over the course of her year in office, opposing the introduction of higher fees and loan schemes, and making a number of appearances in the national media.

Matthew Mulligan

Matthew is Editor for the 62nd volume of Trinity News. He is a Sociology and Social Policy graduate and was previously Deputy Editor of tn2 Magazine.