Independents agree grouping


Independent and United Left Alliance TDs have decided to form a technical group in the Dáil.

The 16 person group will be entitled to challenge the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions.

Independent TD for Dublin Central Maureen O’Sullivan said each member of the group will be free to support or oppose the government as they please. “It’s not a political group, so we don’t have to agree on policies,” she said.

“What we’re doing simply is we’re using the system that is there so that it will make it fair to
those of us who are independents and in the smaller political parties that we will have speaking time, that we will get priority questions, that we will be able to have private members’ time.”

The technical group include independents Finian McGrath, Maureen O’Sullivan, Thomas Pringle, Luke “Ming” Flanagan, Shane Ross, Stephen Donnelly, Mick Wallace, Catherine Murphy, Tom Fleming and John Halligan.

It also includes TDs under the banner of the United Left Alliance and Socialist Party such as Joe Higgins, Clare Daly, Joan Collins and Richard Boyd-Barrett.

Mr McGrath said he, Mr Higgins and Mr Ross would speak on behalf of the group in the Dáil.

But three independent TDs, Michael Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry and Noel Grealish, have not
joined the group. They are expected to support Enda Kenny’s appointment as Taoiseach tomorrow.

A formal application to have the group recognised will be made tomorrow to the clerk of the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is expected to get the attorney general position in the new cabinet to be announced by incoming taoiseach Enda Kenny tomorrow.

With Fine Gael taking 10 government departments and Labour five, the allocation of the attorney general post to Labour will mean that the party will have six representatives sitting at the cabinet table. The attorney general is legal adviser to the government and attends cabinet meetings but does not have a vote at the cabinet table.

Fine Gael is likely to be allotted the environment and enterprise and employment ministries, with Labour filling education and social protection. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is expected to take the foreign affairs portfolio.

It is expected that Fine Gael will get 10 of the 15 senior ministries, with Labour getting five plus a new “super-junior” minister of state who can also attend cabinet meetings. It is expected the “super-junior” will be a position in the economic area.

Phil Hogan, one of Fine Gael’s three negotiators, is regarded as the favourite to become minister for the environment and the party’s enterprise spokesman Richard Bruton is being tipped to get the enterprise position.

However, both parties emphasised yesterday that no final decision had been made on the allotment of cabinet positions and that would only be finalised after both leaders spoke today and possibly tomorrow morning before the 31st Dáil convenes for the first time.

Both leaders spoke briefly yesterday by telephone but did not meet as Mr Kenny was in Mayo for most of the day and did not return to Dublin until late yesterday evening.

With the finance portfolio being split into two component parts, it is expected that Fine Gael’s Michael Noonan will become minister for finance and Labour’s Joan Burton will become the minister with responsibility for expenditure and public sector reform.

Another Labour negotiator, Pat Rabbitte, has also been mentioned as a possibility for the public sector reform role, although his name has also been linked with justice, as has that of Fine Gael negotiator Alan Shatter.

The final member of the Labour negotiating team, Brendan Howlin, has been suggested as minister for social protection, with party colleague Ruairí Quinn being mentioned as a possible minister for education.

Fine Gael deputy leader James Reilly is likely to become the minister for health.

Another senior Fine Gael figure, Seán Barrett, is expected to become the new ceann comhairle.

One of the likely candidates for the attorney general’s post is the Labour Party financial secretary Máire Whelan SC. She is an expert in banking and European law and has recently written a legal textbook on the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Leading family lawyer Gerry Durcan was another Labour lawyer being mentioned in speculation last night. Senior counsel Brian Murray was also being mentioned by some sources.