The move came after last week’s announcement that O’Hanlon was allowing his name go forward as a possible “Senator for Irish Emigrants.” In 2004, Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins promised when elected to the European Parliament that he would give up his senate seat for a suitable representative of the Diaspora.
But the party’s leader in the Seanad (senate), Brian Hayes, warned there could be no movement until its rivals Fianna Fail stated it would not contest the by-election.
“If they contest it, they will win it,” he said. “Jim wants to give his seat to someone who represents emigrants — we’re not going to hand over our seat to Fianna Fail.”
Fianna Fail’s position was unclear as this newspaper went to press. However, both the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Leader of the Seanad Mary O’Rourke have been strong supporters of the McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill, and all parties in both houses of the Irish parliament supported a motion backing that legislation.
Under such circumstances, Fianna Fail will likely fear that contesting the by-election could lead it open to a charge of hypocrisy, and of denying a representative of Irish emigrants a Seanad seat at a vital moment.