Reform Alliance TD Lucinda Creighton's decision to join the Dail's Technical Group has sparked a furious row among the existing group of Independent TDs.
The group of 15 TDs has today written to Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett in protest at the move, and to complain that they were not informed of the move. They have called on Mr Barrett to ensure that they do not lose out on any speaking time as a result of Ms Creighton's decision to join.
Several other members of the Reform Alliance have signalled their intention to also join the Technical Group. Given the furious row, Mr Barrett was forced to release a statement in response to criticisms from Technical Group whip, Catherine Murphy and member John Halligan.
Speaking to Independent.ie, Mr Halligan said it was appalling that the Ceann Comhairle failed to even communicate with them about the move.
"We were never contacted, never informed and it shows a total disregard for us in the Technical Group," he said.
In his statement, Mr Barrett said: "The Ceann Comhairle wishes to make it perfectly clear that he has had no discussions with any Member with regard to Membership of the Technical Group - nor is it his role to do so."
He added that Dail members can simply decide to join the Technical Group providing they inform him of their decision.
The five Reform Alliance TDs – Ms Creighton, Billy Timmins, Denis Naughten, Terence Flanagan and Peter Mathews - left Fine Gael after opposing Government policy, and are seeking to overcome their isolation in the Dail chamber.
Speaking on Newstalk, Ms Creighton said that she has been in touch with the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett about joining the technical group, which is a loose collection of Independent TDs merely to allow them speaking rights, and said he is favourable toward her request.
This means the group is to increase from 16 members to 21, making them a larger group than either Fianna Fail or Sinn Fein. There is also some speculation that former Labour TDs Roisin Shortall and Tommy Broughan are also to join, which would mean the group would have 23 members.
Under Dail rules, the existing members of the Technical Group including Shane Ross, Stephen Donnelly and Richard Boyd Barrett don’t need to grant permission for them to join.
Speaking on Newstalk, Ms Creighton said it is not a case of aligning herself with the views of current members of the Technical Group.
He said: “It is a technical alliance to grant people rights to speak in the Dail, nothing else.”
Ms Creighton said the increased Technical Group will have an impact the make up of Oireachtas committee in order to reflect the new expanded make up of the group.
She insisted that the Reform Alliance is not a political party merely a vehicle for proposing alternative policies. “While I am not ruling anything out, and clearly there is appetite for one. I want to work with people who are like minded, I don’t want to stand as a sole trader at the next election. We have to see, I am talking to a lot of people and exploring the options,” she said.
She added: “It is about having a clear set of policies that are not negotiable after an election. I am not about making up the numbers with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail or anyone.”
She denied her decision to oppose the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013, which led to her expulsion from Fine Gael, was based on any religious beliefs.
“I have never mentioned religion in any of my contributions so I would ask people to actually listen to what I said,” she added.
“I really feel that I didn’t leave Fine Gael, I feel like many others that Fine Gael left me,” she said.