Thursday 23 February 2017

Fine Gael bids to oust Fianna Fail 'squatters'

Sam Smyth

FINE Gael remains determined to evict Fianna Fail from the rooms in Leinster House where the party has met and worked since the early 1960s.

The party whips met again yesterday to resolve the dispute where Fianna Fail is claiming squatters' rights because it is not covered by existing rules and protocols.

Fine Gael believes that because they are the biggest party in Leinster House they should take over the rooms on the fifth floor -- but Fianna Failers see them as their ancestral home.

Fianna Failers think their "noses are being rubbed in it" because they were reduced to just 20 seats from 78 in the election. After winning 76 seats, Fine Gael believes the room is a fitting trophy after an historic victory.

The room where Fine Gael holds its meetings in a nearby building is underground with no natural light. The party says this room is no longer suitable.

Sean O Fearghail, the Fianna Fail Chief Whip, even measured the rooms used by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to disprove claims the Fine Gael rooms are significantly smaller.

He says there is barely a one square metre difference between them.

In the absence of any set procedure to sort out the deadlock, it may fall to the Ceann Comhairle and the Oireachtas Commission.

Controversial

Sean Barrett will not want his first controversial decision as Ceann Comhairle to be an order for Fianna Fail's eviction from their party rooms.

But veteran staff recall a similar dispute in 1982 when Fine Gael won the election and Mr Barrett and the then Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald tried to take over the same room.

"Sean and Garret had a sit-in for a couple of hours but they left the room to Fianna Fail when it became apparent it would not be given up without an unseemly confrontation," said the source.

Other parties are also seeking bigger accommodation: the Labour Party and Sinn Fein need more space for their expanded parties to meet.

Irish Independent

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