Dáil sketch: Uneasy lies the head that wears the Ceann
‘I would like to state that I am being dragged into a controversy over this matter and I resent it very much’
There wasn’t a big media turnout for the event. This was probably because journalists were still getting over earlier events in the Dáil.
It had been a quiet enough start to the day, with Stephen Donnelly making his debut appearance for the Technical Group. He had a promising start, majoring on his specialist subject of finance. Shane Ross sat supportively by his side.
The Order of Business was uneventful until Willie O’Dea asked the Taoiseach about the thorny subject of the appointment of the next Clerk of the Dáil, a matter which has led to some friction between the Ceann Comhairle and the Government.
Sean Barrett reared up. Highly irate.
“I would like to state that I am being dragged into a controversy over this matter and I resent it very much,” he began, outlining his part, as required by the law, in the appointment process.
To this end, he explained he held a meeting of the Oireachtas Commission to discuss the issue. But it ended up a “shambles” and the upshot is that “I am now in a very awkward position.”
The Ceann Comhairle is going to leave the whole damn thing up to the Taoiseach.
“I am appearing in newspapers. People leaked stuff following a consultation process that took place within the law. The content of the leak was totally improper and incorrect, and an attempt to blacken my good name. I have to sit here and take this abuse without having any right of response.”
Barrett complained he was “piggy in the middle” and he wasn’t having it.
O’Dea, and his party leader, Micheál Martin, rushed to assure him that it was nothing personal. In parliament, nobody disrespects the Ceann.
And the Taoiseach rushed in after them to assure the chairman of the Dáil that he fully respects his “complete independence” and the constitutional responsibilities which he carries out in a proper fashion.
Enda then confirmed that Brendan Howlin is bringing a memo to Government with the aim of bringing “an open and transparent conclusion to this matter”.
You have to have sympathy for Sean Barrett, who can’t speak out like his political charges because of the constraints of his office.
But even a Ceann Comhairle has a breaking point – like McDowell and his stool, Barrett will not stand for any attempts to saw off the Chair’s legs.
*This article was amended on September 27th, 2013, to correct a factual error