Thursday 27 October 2016

Barrett won't step down as Dáil Ceann Comhairle before election, says FG

Niall O'Connor and Mark O'Regan

Published 09/06/2015 | 02:30

Mary Mitchell O’Connor was expected to win selection again in Dun Laoghaire
Mary Mitchell O’Connor was expected to win selection again in Dun Laoghaire
Sean Barrett: Fine Gael has denied he is to resign

Fine Gael is confident that Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett will remain in his position until at least after the general election despite previous suggestions that he may resign.

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Mr Barrett claimed in December that he was considering a return to the backbenches and may turn down the free Dáil run afforded to holders of his office.

"That's a decision I have to take. I wouldn't like to leave here without having the experience of saying what I thought about certain things. And I can do that on the backbenches," he said at the time.

The TD's remarks sparked speculation surrounding his potential replacement with a number of senior Fine Gael TDs linked to the prestigious post.

But Mr Barrett is now expected to contest the election as Ceann Comhairle in a move that effectively reduces the Dun Laoghaire constituency from four seats to just three.

While a spokesperson for Mr Barrett yesterday said he had no comment to make surrounding his intentions, a number of Fine Gael sources have played down his previous remarks.

"Barrett is keeping things close to his chest, as is his nature, but there's no doubt he will take the free pass," said one minister.

Mr Barrett was precluded from attending last night's Fine Gael selection convention in Dun Laoghaire, which was expected to be won by sitting TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

Party sources said, however, that Ms O'Connor was continuing to canvass support yesterday amid concerns she could be defeated.

The Dáil deputy was being challenged by sitting councillors Maria Bailey and Barry Ward.

Party sources pointed to the fortunes of Jobs Minister Richard Bruton, who lost his convention before being added to the ticket in Dublin Bay North.

The result stunned Mr Bruton's supporters, who blamed the outcome on pressures stemming from the new gender quotas.

Under the rules, at least one third of candidates put forward by each political party must be female.

At the convention, Mr Bruton was defeated by former Lord Mayor Naoise O Muiri and party activist Stephanie Regan.

Party headquarters immediately announced that Mr Bruton would be added. This means that Fine Gael is to field three candidates in a five-seat constituency.

Meanwhile, the Dun Laoghaire constituency is set to be hotly contested as Fianna Fáil prepares for its own selection convention.

Former minister Mary Hanafin is being challenged by councillors Kate Feeney, Jennifer Cuffe and Cormac Devlin.

Party sources say Mr Devlin "has the numbers" in terms of support but insist that the outcome is difficult to call.

Labour has to select a candidate after sitting TD and former leader Eamon Gilmore announced his intentions to step down at the next election.

The party's councillor Deirdre Kingston has declared her intentions.

However, high profile senator Ivana Bacik is also being tipped.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett is expected to hold on to his seat.

Irish Independent

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