Barrett says media leaks attempting to “blacken’’ his good name

Appointment of new Clerk of the Dail leads to sharp exchanges

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has said material is being leaked to the media to blacken his name. Photograph: Frank Miller

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has said material is being leaked to the media to blacken his name. Photograph: Frank Miller

Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 01:00

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett has said material is being leaked to the media to blacken his name in the ongoing controversy over the appointment of a new Clerk of the Dáil.

The post has been vacant since Kieran Coughlan’s retirement last August.

Mr Barrett said yesterday he was appearing in the papers because people were leaking material 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,’’ he added. “I have to sit here and take the abuse without having any right of response.’’

The matter was raised by Willie O’Dea (FF) who asked if the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments) (Amendment) Bill 2013 would be introduced by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin to ensure there was a competition based on merit.

Mr Barrett said a 1959 Act, amended in 2003, obliged him in law to perform certain functions. He added that he was now going to apply the 2003 Act, “where I do not exercise my right and it will now be a matter for the Taoiseach in accordance with that Act”.

When Mr O’Dea insisted that he was not trying to reflect on Mr Barrett in any way, the Ceann Comhairle said “this is where the blame is coming and I am not taking it anymore”.

Mr O’Dea replied: “I regret that and I am not directing my remarks at you in any shape or form. I am simply asking the Taoiseach if he will take the opportunity to amend the legislation.”

Mr Barrett said that under the 2003 Act, Mr Howlin had no role in the matter.

“No, but he has a role in other legislation,” said Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin. “He is the Minister . . . who can bring in legislation.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he regretted “the fact that there have been comments attributed in sections of the media about the Ceann Comhairle. He has a constitutional responsibility to chair this House in a proper fashion, which he does.”