Updated: 23/05/18 : 17:41:07
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Taoiseach wants more Northern voices Seanad (Senate) shake-up

More voices from Northern Ireland should be heard in the Irish Seanad, the Taoiseach has said.

Leo Varadkar favoured reform of the Oireachtas upper house as part of a wider shake-up creating overseas “constituencies” of diaspora living in places such as North America and Europe.

He warned the prospect of processing millions of postal votes and certain provisions in the state’s constitution made it a complicated task but added: “I very much want to see the voice of Northern Ireland represented in our Seanad.”

The Taoiseach said the first Free State Senate, established after Irish independence, was intended to represent unionist voices; half its members were unionists.

“I definitely think that our Senate would add to our parliament if we had more people from Northern Ireland sitting in the Seanad.

“We have two now, possibly three, Ian Marshall most recently elected, but I think we could have more and that would definitely add to our parliament and that is something I would favour.”

Mr Marshall is a unionist farmer who opposes Brexit.

The former president of the Ulster Farmers Union, from Markethill in Co Armagh, ran as an independent after being first approached by the Taoiseach to contest the election.

Sinn Fein’s former Belfast Lord Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile also sits in the Seanad.

Billy Lawless, a Chicago restaurateur, has represented the diaspora there since 2016.