Friday 9 December 2016

Four candidates likely to bid for Dáil chair

Published 08/03/2016 | 02:30

Michal Moynihan: had support of FF leader Micheál Martin
Michal Moynihan: had support of FF leader Micheál Martin
Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF)
Maureen O'Sullivan (Ind)
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF)
Minister of State for food, horticulture and forestry: Andrew Doyle

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are set to go head to head in the race for the job of Dáil chairman or Ceann Comhairle.

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But up to four candidates are set to contest the position, which will be chosen by a first ever secret ballot of TDs when the Dáil reconvenes at 10.30am on Thursday. Dublin Central Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan is to announce today whether she is standing - and she may emerge as the favourite in a contest to be decided by transfers under PR.

Fine Gael looks set to nominate Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle while Sinn Féin has signalled it will field Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who has been a TD for Cavan-Monaghan since 1997.

Fianna Fáil has formally chosen Kildare South TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl to stand. The 45-year-old, who has been at Leinster House as a TD and senator since 1997, was chosen at a parliamentary party meeting yesterday by a secret ballot.

He defeated newly re-elected Donegal TD and former minister and MEP Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher, and Michael Moynihan of Cork North West, who had party leader Micheál Martin's backing. A fourth candidate, former Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith of Cavan Monaghan, withdrew his name, and so did John McGuinness of Kilkenny, who had also been linked to the contest.

Party officials said they would not reveal the vote breakdown after the meeting at Leinster House, which lasted little over an hour. The Fianna Fáil vote by secret ballot was a relatively new departure and it precedes a first-ever election of a Ceann Comhairle by secret ballot.

Up to now, the Ceann Comhairle was effectively chosen by the incoming Taoiseach as a plum job which has the pay and perks of a minister. It also means an automatic return to parliament next time without contesting an election.

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For Dublin Central's Maureen O'Sullivan, success would be the second major turnaround in her political fortunes inside a fortnight. First elected in a by-election in June 2009 to replace Independent Tony Gregory, she was resigned to losing the seat at the count 10 days ago and had actually left the count centre in the RDS.

But an extraordinary turn of transfers saw her return to the RDS to be declared elected. Now she is has a chance of being automatically returned without a contest next time.

Ms O'Sullivan last night was due to meet supporters in her constituency to discuss the issue, having already expressed an interest.

"I am considering things very carefully and after discussion and some reflection I will make an announcement on the issue on Tuesday," she told the Irish Independent.

It is understood Ms O'Sullivan was first encouraged to consider standing by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. She would be likely to generate a lot of support amid the smaller political groups and Independents and could gain valuable transfers.

It also emerged that Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle of Wicklow was on the cusp of declaring his candidature. "I was encouraged by some colleagues and supporters to go for it. And I'm giving it serious thought," he said.

It is understood that Mr Doyle's supporters include Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Leinster House officials have said that candidates require a total of seven TDs to get on the ballot paper. TDs can only back one nominee, though that backing does not preclude standing themselves.

Irish Independent

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