Thursday 24 May 2018

Ceann Comhairle controversy: Barrett to make statement

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett
Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett

Niall O'Connor & Independent.ie Newsdesk

Embattled Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett will make a statement in the Dail this afternoon as he bids to draw a line under the highly damaging controversy that has threatened his position.

Independent.ie understands that Mr Barrett will clarify his previous claim that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Fein TDs are "out to get me".

The statement will be made after a series of discussions today involving Mr Barrett and senior Opposition figures.

Earlier, the Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin confirmed that the pair had spoken by phone ahead of a meeting of FF TDs and senators this afternoon at Leinster House.

The FF party is considering joining with Sinn Fein to push a motion of no confidence in the Ceann Comhairle - a move which would in practice leave Mr Barrett no option but to quit.

The row centres on a ruling by Mr Barrett last Wednesday to rule out debate on setting up a commission of inquiry into alleged garda misconduct.

This was further inflamed by comments on radio last Friday by Mr Barrett in which he alleged the two opposition parties were seeking to undermine him.

Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein staged a Dail walk-out after the chairman's ruling and they have continued to contest the validity of the decision.

Mr Barrett has insisted his decision was based on the need to establish the garda inquiry as quickly as possible.

He said he also wanted to avoid risking a complex court challenge by having an open debate about a matter which is also the subject of a High Court challenge by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said that he believes that the Ceann Comhairle "has no option but to withdraw" after his comments in the radio interview.

He said that responsibility for the current dispute lies with Taoiseach Enda Kenny who "has a lot of questions to answer".

"The Taoiseach didn't even divulge he had a letter [from Alan Shatter] until he was pressed to do so," he added.

Independent TD for Kildare North Catherine Murphy said that Mr Barrett "should back down absolutely".

"There isn't one voice [in the Dail], there's a collection a voices... Personally if there's a motion of no confidence I certainly will be supporting it."

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