Friday 18 October 2019

Seán Ó Fearghaíl elected Ceann Comhairle of the 32nd Dail in secret ballot

Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF)
Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF)
Maureen O'Sullivan (Ind)
Minister of State for food, horticulture and forestry: Andrew Doyle
Bernard Durkan
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin (SF) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Seán Ó Fearghaíl has been elected the Ceann Comhairle for the 32nd Dail.

For the first time in the history of the Dail, the election was by secret ballot.

There were five candidates nominated for the role.

The candidates were: Andrew Doyle, Wicklow; Bernard J Durkan, Kildare North; Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Cavan-Monaghan; Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Kildare South; and Maureen O'Sullivan, Dublin Central.

Ó Fearghail secured 74 votes in total, and finished 16 votes ahead of Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle.

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 today's vote, the new Ceann Comhairle 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 said.

Mr O Feargháil actively canvassed deputies from other parties in recent days, sending emails and making numerous phonecalls in a bid to garner support.

His election means that the three seat Kildare South constituency is reduced to a two seater.

Later today, party leaders congratulated Mr Ó Fearghaíl on his election.

"I think it's really important in a changed political landscape that you are the first Ceann Comhairle since the foundation of the Stateto draw your authority from the vote by secret ballot of all of the members of this chamber," Taoiseach Enda Kenny said.

"That in itself is a very historic change in what is now a historic and changed landscape," the Fine Gael leader added.

Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin addressed Mr Ó Fearghaíl and said: "I want to congratulate you warmly" adding "you are a committed and skilled parliamentarian and always have been a person with a very strong social conscience, committed to the issues of housing, agriculture and many others."

Tánaiste Joan Burton thanked outgoing Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett. She said Mr Ó Fearghaíl is "a man of decency and integrity" who is "dedicated to the public interest".

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said Mr Ó Fearghaíl's "job will be a difficult one" as there are "deeply divisive issues to be tackled".

Independent Michael Healy-Rae also congratulated Mr Ó Fearghail, joking: "On behalf of the Healy-Rae party I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you every good luck in this very important role."

Early favourite, Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, was eliminated from the race after the third count this afternoon.

After the third count, Seán Ó’Fearghail was on 61 votes, while Fine Gael’s Andrew Doyle was trailing behind with 48 votes.

Earlier, Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan was eliminated after the first count and his 21 votes were distributed.

While Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was eliminated after the second count having received just 24 votes and no transfers.

Read More: Early favourite Maureen O’Sullivan eliminated as Ceann Comhairle count continues

Mr Ó Fearghaíl's election will mean he will be automatically re-elected as TD to the 33rd Dail.

The attention of TDs will now turn to the election of Taoiseach.

No party is expected to command enough support to elect a Taoiseach, which will force Enda Kenny to resign.

More to follow

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