Pro-choice campaigner Ber Grogan announced on 11th December that she will compete for a seat with Senator Rónán Mullen on the National University of Ireland panel in the next Seanad elections.
A co-convenor of the Together for Yes campaign, Grogan has been a parliamentary assistant in the Oireachtas since December 2015. As a graduate of the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown, Grogan is unable to vote in Seanad elections.
The current NUI seats are occupied by Senators Rónán Mullen, former-Tánaiste Michael McDowell SC and Alice-Mary Higgins. Higgins is a former policy coordinator at the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the daughter of President Michael D. Higgins.
Grogan’s website lists her priorities as housing and homelessness, education, animal welfare and legislating for abortion services. Additionally, she wishes to work on providing “greater supports for women and children fleeing domestic violence situations, including addressing anomalies around accessing social housing support.”
Her agenda includes supporting legislation to ban fur farming and live hare coursing, developing “relationships with [the Union of Students in Ireland] and other student union bodies” and bringing forward a referendum on “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and/or a right to housing”. Economic, social and cultural rights are not currently enforceable by the Irish courts, although they are included in Article 45 of Bunreacht na hÉireann “for the general guidance of the Oireachtas”.
Six members of the Seanad are elected by graduates of Irish universities, with 3 members being elected by graduates of NUI and 3 members elected by graduates of Trinity College Dublin. Voting in the university constituencies for the Seanad is done by post.
Incumbent Senator Rónán Mullen was first elected to the Seanad in July 2007 and was re-elected in 2011. As a prominent pro-life campaigner, he was criticised during the referendum on the eighth amendment for stating that “mental health has no evidence base” on a TV3 debate. A petition calling for his resignation in the wake of the comment reached almost 30,000 signatures in a week. Mullen campaigned in opposition to the same-sex marriage referendum in 2015.
Grogan’s campaign launch comes amid an ongoing effort by UCDSU Graduate Officer Niall Torris to register UCD graduates to vote in Seanad elections. Torris has previously met with NUI Senator Michael McDowell to discuss reform of the Seanad and spoke with NUI Senator Alice-Mary Higgins in a video to promote graduate registration.