Higgins was elected to the European Parliament in 2004, and promised to relinquish his Seanad seat to make way for a representative of the Diaspora.
Higgins has welcomed O’Hanlon’s candidacy, but Fine Gael has said he will only resign if rivals Fianna F_il promise not to contest the by-election. City and county councilors across the Republic make up the electorate in such a contest, and Fine Gael says that Fianna F_il would easily win if it fielded its own candidate.
But on Monday, a spokeswoman for the Taoiseach made it clear the Fianna F_il-led government was open to the idea of O’Hanlon becoming a senator.
“If Jim Higgins formally resigns and a serious candidate is proposed, then I would be happy to discuss it with the Fianna F_il senators,” she quoted the Taoiseach as saying.
Both parties have expressed deep concern about more than 25,000 undocumented Irish citizens living in the United States, and urged for these to be regularized as part of U.S. immigration reform.
O’Hanlon has said that the election of a New York-based senator would serve to underscore the importance the Irish parliament attributed to the issue, especially in the U.S.