Friday 23 March 2018

FG support helps Ó Fearghaíl's bid for Ceann Comhairle

Newly elected Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghaíl. Photo: Maxwell's
Newly elected Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghaíl. Photo: Maxwell's

Niall O'Connor and Cormac McQuinn

Fianna Fáil TD Séan Ó Fearghaíl was elected to the position of Ceann Comhairle after securing significant support from Fine Gael.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl comfortably defeated four of his Dáil colleagues in the race to become the chairperson of the 32nd Dáil.

He is also the first Ceann Comhairle to be elected by secret ballot.

The Kildare South TD will now immediately head up a new cross-party committee to examine proposals for Dáil reform.

But an examination of the voting patterns shows many Fine Gael TDs gave their second preferences to Mr Ó Fearghaíl instead of following party lines.

And the move was part of a concerted effort by Fine Gael to ensure Fianna Fáil secured the position of Ceann Comhairle, which resulted in the party having one fewer vote in election of An Taoiseach.

It is understood a number of senior Fine Gael figures actively encouraged deputies to transfer to Mr O'Fearghaíl just days before the vote.

Following the fourth count, Mr Ó Fearghaíl secured 79 votes compared with the 58 votes secured by Fine Gael TD for Wicklow/East Carlow Andrew Doyle. More than two-thirds of the first preference votes secured by Mr Doyle transferred to Mr Ó Fearghaíl.

Earlier, Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan were eliminated.

But it was claimed Fianna Fáil only managed to secure the coveted position because of the support given by Fine Gael in terms of transfers.

"It seems to me Fianna Fáil couldn't have got the Ceann Comhairle position without transfers from Fine Gael," left wing TD Richard Boyd Barrett told the Dáil.

"So let's stop the pretence. Let's move away from factional Civil War politics and let's have a proper left-right debate in this country."

Mr Ó Fearghaíl was congratulated on his election from all sides of the House, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny saying his election by secret ballot was "historic".

But during the first sitting of the Dáil, the new Ceann Comhairle allowed deputies to stray somewhat from the topic at hand.

While Mr Ó Fearghaíl has a relatively low profile nationally, he is deeply respected within political circles.

During the last Dáil term, he served as the Fianna Fáil whip and had the responsibility of ensuring the party's TDs turned up to vote.

He also served on the Committee for Procedure and Privileges (CPP) which has the powers to sanction deputies who step out of line.

Prior to the vote, he told deputies that many people have "struggled to interpret" the electorate's decision on February 26.

But he said that every TD elected has a mandate and there is a "parity of esteem" that must be respected.

"The Irish public require us to restructure this government and re-manner this Dáil," he added.

Irish Independent

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