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A Seanad election takes place up to 90 days after Dáil Éireann has dissolved. This means that the new Dáil has assembled before the Seanad election takes place.

The Seanad has 60 members. The Taoiseach nominates 11 members, 6 are elected by university graduates and 43 in Seanad panel elections.


Before the election, 5 panels are formed of candidates who represent vocational interests, namely, culture and education, agriculture, labour, industry and commerce, and administration. Each panel consists of 2 sub-panels – the Nominating Bodies sub-panel and the Oireachtas sub-panel.

Candidates are nominated to the Nominating Bodies sub-panels by organisations that represent a particular vocational interest and are registered as nominating bodies for a particular panel.

Candidates are nominated to the Oireachtas sub-panels by members of the Dáil and the outgoing members of the Seanad.

Once the nomination of Seanad panel candidates has taken place, the returning officer sends a list of the candidates nominated for each panel to each voter. The list will indicate the name of the candidate and the bodies or persons who nominated them.


On the day of the poll, the returning officer sends each voter 5 ballot papers by registered post - one for each panel. The ballot papers will show the names of the candidates in alphabetical order, their addresses and descriptions and the sub-panel they were nominated to.

If the candidates have a political affiliation, this is not mentioned on the ballot paper.

The voter marks the order of their choice of candidates and returns the ballot papers by registered post to the returning officer.

There is a separate count for each panel. The candidates are elected according to the principle of proportional representation with single transferable vote.

A quota of votes is calculated to work out the number of votes necessary to become a candidate. If a candidate reaches the quota they are deemed elected.

If a candidate obtains more votes than the quota, the surplus will be distributed to the remaining candidates in accordance with the next preference shown on the ballot papers. If no candidate reaches the quota, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes are distributed according to the next preference shown on the ballot papers.

The number of candidates who can be elected from each panel are as follows;

  • Cultural and educational panel - 5 members including at least 2 from each sub-panel
  • Agricultural panel - 11 members including at least 4 from each sub-panel
  • Labour panel - 11 members including at least 4 from each sub-panel
  • Industrial and Commercial panel - 9 members including at least 3 from each sub-panel
  • Administrative panel - 7 members including at least 3 from each sub-panel.

If a Senator dies, resigns or is disqualified from the Seanad, the vacancy will be filled by a by-election.


Only certain people can vote in Seanad panel elections. They must be

Further information

Further information is available in the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government’s publication, How the Seanad is elected (pdf).

Information taken directly from

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