Barrett dismisses talk of standoff with Kenny


CEANN COMHAIRLE:NEW CEANN Comhairle Seán Barrett has dismissed rumours of a standoff with Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny over a seat at the Cabinet table.

“I got a call from the Taoiseach inviting me to become Ceann Comhairle and I was delighted to accept,” Mr Barrett said last night.

The Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown TD described his appointment as a “nice way to finish off a political career”. He said the Dáil should allow more time for the debate on topical issues and he saw no reason why it shouldn’t sit for longer hours.

Mr Barrett (66) acknowledged that his command of Irish wasn’t great, but said he planned to refresh it.

Addressing the Dáil, the Ceann Comhairle said TDs could live up to the trust the people had placed in them if they conducted their affairs with purpose, professionalism, passion and civility, and in a manner that reinforced the relevance of the chamber.

Mr Barrett is a former minister for defence and minister for the marine who has been undefeated in elections since 1981. Unusually, he retired from politics and then made a successful comeback after a five-year break.

In the recent election, he was elected to the second seat and brought home a running mate, Mary Mitchell O’Connor.

He was a partner in an insurance brokerage firm before entering national politics and also established his own bloodstock insurance firm.

He was first elected to Dublin County Council in 1974 and was intermittently a member of that body and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council up to 1995.

He failed to win a Dáil seat at the first attempt in 1977 but was elected in Dún Laoghaire four years later. Garret FitzGerald appointed him government chief whip and a minister of state in 1982. He was again made chief whip when Fine Gael next entered into coalition government, in 1994, and also served as minister of state under John Bruton.

A year later, Mr Barrett was appointed minister for defence and minister for the marine. His tenure was marked by controversy over the Army deafness issue, which saw over 9,000 soldiers pick up compensation for hearing-loss claims.

In 1999, he announced that he would not contest the next election, in order to make way for the next generation. However, Fine Gael failed to win a single seat in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown constituency in 2002 and the party looked to their former poll-topper for a revival in fortunes.

Mr Barrett was duly elected again in 2007, but did not make it to the front bench until after last year’s heave against Enda Kenny, when he was appointed spokesman for foreign affairs.