Former Progressive Democrat leader Michael McDowell is to re-enter politics and will contest the Seanad elections.

RTÉ News has learned Mr McDowell will contest a seat on the University panel and is being backed by outgoing Senator Fergal Quinn.

Mr McDowell led the PDs as Tánaiste in 2006 and 2007, when he lost his seat and resigned the leadership.

He served as minister for justice, Attorney General and represented Dublin South East in the Dáil at various stages, being first elected in 1987.

Since his defeat he has frequently been a commentator on the political scene and was linked at one stage with Renua.

David Begg, the former General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, is also to stand for election on the NUI panel.