Sunday 25 September 2016

Race to be Ceann Comhairle heats up as secret ballot to be used for the first time in election

John Downing and Niall O’Connor

Published 03/03/2016 | 12:59

Fine Gael's John Deasy. Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael's John Deasy. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Moynihan, Cork deputy
Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher. Photo: Damien Eagers

THE contest for Dáil chairman stepped up a gear this afternoon as Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs and Senators, including many newcomers, held their first meeting at Leinster House.

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One potential Fianna Fáil contender Seán Ó Fearghaíl of Kildare South received a boost when his constituency colleague, newcomer Fiona O’Loughlin, endorsed his candidature.

Sinn Féin signalled their interest by citing the name of their veteran TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin from Cavan Monaghan.

The chairman’s job – officially known as Ceann Comhairle – carries a minister’s pay and perks.  Best of all it comes with a “free pass” next time with a return to the Dáil without having to contest an election.

To add to the intrigue, the position will be elected by a first ever secret ballot first thing after the Dáil re-opens next Thursday. Other names linked to the job include two Fianna Fáil TDs, Michael Moynihan, of Cork North West, and Pat “The Cope” Gallagher of Donegal.

Fine Gael names associated with the post include Fergus O’Dowd of Louth; John Deasy of Waterford; Michael Ring of Mayo; and Mary Mitchell O’Connor of Dún Laoghaire.

But there is a move within Fine Gael to avoid the appointment as it involves losing one of their 50 TDs. Labour, who have just scraped the minimum seven TDs for speaking rights, have firmly indicated that former deputy chairman, Brendan Howlin, will not be seeking the post.

Independent TDs whose names have been mentioned include Finian McGrath of Dublin Bay North and John Halligan of Waterford.

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