No reform as FF lines up Martin ally for Dáil chairman
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is lining up a close ally for the role of Ceann Comhairle in the new Dáil, despite his claim that he wants to lead political reform.
The party's TDs will meet today to select a nominee for the position, even though the chairman will be selected by secret ballot for the first time.
Cork North-West's Michael Moynihan, a loyalist of Mr Martin's who has been close to him throughout his almost 20 years in the Dáil, is emerging as the favourite ahead of Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher and Brendan Smith.
Several sources have told the Irish Independent the contest will come down to Mr Moynihan and Mr Ó Fearghaíl, but the former is likely to win out as he is seen as the one favoured by Mr Martin and the majority of new TDs, with whom he worked as chairman of Fianna Fáil's National Constituencies Committee.
Sinn Féin is also putting forward an agreed candidate in the form of its longest-serving TD, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has hit out at both parties, saying they are going against the spirit of the secret ballot.
"What's disappointing about that is that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin have done exactly what they weren't supposed to do. They have appointed party nominees. That misses the point," he said.
"The whole idea of the new way of electing a Ceann Comhairle was that the Ceann Comhairle should not be a nominee of the Taoiseach or the government or any political party."
The row comes as Dublin Central Independent Maureen O'Sullivan is emerging as a dark horse with a real chance of being the first female Ceann Comhairle.
She is to meet her supporters tonight before deciding whether to allow her name go forward for Thursday's vote.
"Obviously, I'm thinking about it. I'll decide by Tuesday. The idea of being totally independent, never having had a party connection, and being a woman makes it an interesting one," she said.
Ms O'Sullivan is likely to receive support from the Independent Alliance, the Green Party, AAA-PBP and a number of other Independents.
The vote will operate like a General Election using the PR-STV system, meaning that transfers will be crucial and this is where Ms O'Sullivan could win through.
Fine Gael has decided to allow any of their TDs who seek nominations from seven other members of the Dáil to run.
Minister of State Michael Ring was touted as a contender but he told the Irish Independent last night that, having considered it, he decided the job would not be for him. "You can rule me out," he said,
Similarly, Fine Gael Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd, who had expressed an interest before the General Election, is now no longer putting his name forward.
The most likely name from the Fine Gael benches is now Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle.
Mr Ring also criticised Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin's approach, saying: "This is real Dáil reform that they have been looking for but now they are obstructing it. At least Fine Gael have let us put our names forward and see what happens."
Fianna Fáil's Robert Troy defended the plan for an internal party vote, saying the nominee would still need "to get support from across the political divide".