FF TD selected by Taoiseach to serve as Leas-Cheann Comhairle

Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 01:00

FIANNA FÁIL TD for Galway East Michael Kitt has been appointed Leas-Cheann Comhairle by Taoiseach Enda Kenny despite the main Opposition party having nominated Wexford TD John Browne.

Mr Kitt’s appointment to the post – which gives him a role of deputising for Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett – was announced in the Dáil by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore yesterday morning.

The position has traditionally been filled, with a few exceptions in past parliaments, by a member of the opposition. Labour TD and now Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin was Leas-Ceann Comhairle of the last Dáil.

Mr Kitt said he was “hugely honoured and grateful” to have been chosen by Mr Kenny.

“This is an important task and one which I hope to carry out in a fair and transparent manner. I also hope to play a role alongside the Ceann Comhairle in reforming the way our parliament works. There is a great desire to modernise the way the Dáil does its business and I am looking forward to making a meaningful contribution to this process,” he said.

Mr Kitt added that he hoped the 31st Dáil would be one where productive debate took place in a progressive and modern setting. His appointment came at the conclusion of a slight tussle within Fianna Fáil for the position.

Mr Browne, who chairs the parliamentary party, was officially endorsed by the party as its nominee two weeks ago on the basis that there was a tradition of awarding the position to the chairman of the party when in opposition.

However, Mr Kitt also made party leader Micheál Martin aware of his interest in the position. He also contacted the Taoiseach to inform him that he was interested in the role. Mr Kenny and Mr Kitt trained as teachers together and entered the Dáil when winning byelections in 1975.

Mr Kitt is Fianna Fáil’s longest serving Oireachtas member. A Fianna Fáil spokesman said Mr Martin had wished Mr Kitt well and there was no rancour within the party at Mr Kenny’s decision to appoint him rather than Mr Browne.

“It was very clear who the Fianna Fáil nominee was and that was in line with the long-standing convention that the outgoing chairman is nominated for the position,” he said. “What happened was the Taoiseach made the decision. He understood that we had nominated one person [Mr Browne] but it was his decision.”

The position – effectively vicechairman of the Dáil – is reserved for the Opposition, but the appointment is made by the taoiseach of the day. The role carries the same pay and the same status as that of a minister of state.

In 2007 then taoiseach Bertie Ahern bypassed the main opposition party, Fine Gael, when nominating Mr Howlin for the position.