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Saturday 20 October 2018

Gilmore told O'Donoghue to resign in phone call

Senan Molony Deputy Political Editor

LABOUR Party leader Eamon Gilmore told John O'Donoghue in a personal phone call yesterday that it was time for him to resign or be removed from office.

That was shortly before Mr Gilmore beat Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny to the punch by calling for the Ceann Comhairle's resignation in the Dail.

Mr Kenny was outflanked by Mr Gilmore, who captured the public mood of anger by carrying their outrage directly to the Ceann Comhairle while he sat as the chair of a packed chamber.

All eyes had been on Mr O'Donoghue as he sat to preside at Leaders' Questions, the first forum in a fortnight at which the expenses scandal could be addressed -- the Dail having been adjourned last week for the Lisbon referendum campaign.

The Labour leader addressed Mr O'Donoghue directly: "A Cheann Comhairle, I regret to say this but I consider that your position is no longer tenable.

"I think you will either have to resign, or be removed from office."

He said it was his intention to meet his party and to recommend the tabling of a confidence motion.

The Ceann Comhairle replied: "Thank you, Deputy Gilmore."

But it emerged last night that, after being disappointed by other political leaders' Mr Gilmore decided to go it alone and placed his fateful call.

The Labour leader originally sought a meeting of all political parties to address the continuing scandal of Mr O'Donoghue's expenses. His invitation was accepted by Sinn Fein. But Enda Kenny would only attend if Brian Cowen did -- and the Taoiseach refused.

Difficult

Last night Mr Gilmore revealed that the parliamentary Labour party had decided unanimously to table a motion of no confidence in the Ceann Comhairle. He denied acting out of narrow political interest. "There is no political advantage in this at all.

"This was something that I found very difficult to do. It is a sad day. I believe John O'Donoghue has done a very good job as Ceann Comhairle. I wish it had been possible to do it differently."

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was beaten to the punch by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in calling for John O'Donoghue's resignation.

After the dramatic Gilmore declaration, which followed an earlier Sinn Fein call for Mr O'Donoghue to resign, Fine Gael was left desperately playing catch-up.

The party announced its leader would give a media briefing on the plinth of Leinster House. But Mr Kenny gave another floundering performance -- repeatedly failing to say whether his party had no confidence in the Ceann Comhairle.

The FG chief said he felt Mr O'Donoghue should be given his say at a meeting of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, due today at 5pm. "Obviously circumstances have now changed.

"The Ceann Comhairle has lost the support and confidence of at least two parties in the House," he added, referring to Labour and Sinn Fein -- but not his own.

"In order to avoid the further politicisation of this office, and to have inter-party wrangling over, I believe it is now time for the Ceann Comhairle to resign forthwith," Mr Kenny declared.

Asked if he had lacked courage in failing to raise the issue in the Dail, Mr Kenny replied "certainly not".

He said he had set out his stall on Sunday, including a call for money to be paid back. Pressed on whether he had lacked the "bottle" expected of a man who hopes to become Taoiseach, Mr Kenny declared: "I certainly do not lack bottle. I am a fair person.

"I felt the Ceann Comhairle should have been given an opportunity to explain himself to the committee of which he is chair."

Irish Independent

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