ALTHOUGH the name of Pat Hayes will appear on the ballot papers that will issue on Monday for the forthcoming Seanad elections, the Clare county councillor will not be canvassing for election.
Speaking to The Clare Champion, Councillor Hayes said that at this point in time and for personal reasons, it does not suit him to go forward.
“I was honoured to get the nomination but circumstances this time didn’t allow me to canvass. I am very interested in being a candidate in the future,” he added.
Last month, the East Clare councillor sought the nomination to the Seanad’s Agricultural Rural Development panel from the Irish Grain and Feed Association but then had a rethink and decided not to contest the seat.
However, as the papers had been lodged, he could not formally withdraw.
“I did seek the nomination and I did get a nomination and then I did seek to withdraw it. The system doesn’t allow you to withdraw a nomination and so the only thing I could do was to not formally canvass,” he explained.
There are no provisions for the withdrawal of a candidate in Seanad elections once a nomination has been received by the Seanad Returning Officer. However, the procedure is different in the Dáil and local elections, as candidates can withdraw their application up to 12 noon the day after nominations have closed.
This has prompted Councillor Hayes to call for “a full overhaul of the election process for the Seanad”.
“It needs to be far more democratic and more relative to the constituency that you’re serving. I think you need to have a proper Seanad, which is elected by the ordinary people of the country. I don’t feel any way privileged or honoured to have a vote [as a county councillor] but I think the public have a right to have a say on the Seanad,” he said.
While he believes reform is needed he does think that the Seanad has a valuable role.
“I wouldn’t be at all for dismissing it and it is something I’d like to be involved with. I would probably be seeking to go back there but it would be with a view of reform of the Seanad, so any future candidates would not be going off to Donegal or Louth or Wexford looking for votes. It makes no sense that candidates have to come from the far ends of the country to each constituency to lobby the councillors and public representatives for their votes,” he said.
He does not believe his stance means the waste of a nomination. “It’s not really lost, there are over and above the candidates running for three to four seats. I don’t feel it’s hampering anyone’s chances,” he said.
Councillor Hayes said he informed his colleagues at the March meeting of Clare County Council that he was not going to canvass and said, “They will see the picture on the ballot paper. They can vote for me if they like. I can’t stop people from voting for me.”