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Unionist candidate Ian Marshall elected to Irish Senate

Former Ulster Farmers Union President was backed by the Taoiseach and Sinn Fein

A unionist candidate has been elected to the Irish Senate for the first time.

Ian Marshall, a former Ulster Farmers' Union president was nominated by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and also backed by Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald.

While other unionists have served as senators in the past, he is the first to be elected by members in both the Seanad and the Dail.

Adding his congratulations, Mr Varadkar commented: "Well done Ian Marshall in being elected to the Seanad. Good to have a voice for farming and NI in our parliament with Brexit coming. Look forward to working with him."

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said: "Congratulations Senator Ian Marshall, welcome to Oireachtas."

Mr Marshall will sit as an independent and was elected on the fourth count.

He told the BBC the result was "hugely significant".

"I think the development this morning has indicated that actually there's a change of thinking in some of this - that the future for everyone is about collaboration," he said.

"I was hugely honoured when the Taoiseach asked me if I would allow my name to go forward. I think that, in itself, sends out a message that there is a real appetite to demonstrate collaboration and co-operation."

Mr Marshall, who owns a farm in Markethill and works for Queen's University, has been an outspoken critic of Brexit.

It's believed Mr Varadkar backed Mr Marshall as an olive branch to unionists.

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