O'Donoghue says he will resign next week
Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue has announced tonight that he will resign next week.
The move came in a one line statement released shortly after 10.30pm and follows calls from the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party for Mr O'Donoghue to resign.
Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore called for John O'Donoghue to resign his position or be removed from office. Sinn Féin leader of the Dáil Caomghín Ó Caoláin had also earlier called on Mr Donoghue to resign.
This evening, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said in a short statement that in the interests of the independence of the office of Ceann Comhairle, Mr O'Donoghue should "resign forthwith".
Mr Kenny's statement said: “I had sought to avoid the politicisation of the office of Ceann Comhairle
by proposing that John O’Donoghue attend the Oireachtas Commission meeting tomorrow. That would have provided him with an opportunity to account for his expenses and for expenditure incurred on his behalf."
“In the present circumstances, this is no longer realistic. Therefore, in the interests of the independence of the office of Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue should resign forthwith.”
In the Dáil this afternoon, Mr Gilmore addressed Mr O’Donoghue directly and said: “Ceann Comhairle, I regret to say this but I consider your position is no longer tenable”.
“I think you will either have to resign or I think you will have to be removed from office.” Mr Gilmore added the Labour Party would now be tabling a motion of no-confidence in Mr O’Donoghue.
In response, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said: "As I was saying, I was very much of the view that the Ceann Comhairle be given the opportunity to put his proposals and his views to the forum which is meeting tomorrow."
"I thought that that would be in keeping and constant with the independence of his office and that he should be afforded an opportunity to do so."
Commenting on the detail of expenses claimed by the Ceann Comhairle, Mr Gilmore said: "The pattern of the extravagance was unacceptable. Unacceptable to me as a public representative, unacceptable to me as a taxpayer and I think unacceptable to the vast majority of taxpayers."
"I considered that it was something that the Dáil was going to have to deal with - and deal with quickly".
Mr Gilmore said "The issue that arises therefore now is an issue of Dáil Eireann's confidence in the Ceann Comhairle."
The Labour Party leader also asked the Taoiseach and his coalition partners to state whether they continue to have confidence in the Kerry TD.
"I would like to ask, if you - Taoiseach and the parties in government - continue to have confidence in Deputy O'Donoghue as Ceann Comhairle", he said.
In response, the Taoiseach said: "It is greatly to be regretted that the issue is brought to the house in this way."
He said the meeting of the Oireachtas Commission, due to take place tomorrow, was the "appropriate" forum.
"We should await the outcome of that. And I do believe it is important that the confidence of the House in the Ceann Comhairle can be confirmed on the basis of a discussion and the decision should be taken at that Commission meeting," the Taoiseach said.
Mr Cowen said he wanted to assure Mr Gilmore that he wanted "to see full transparency in respect of what we do here."
"There is nothing for us to hide, nothing that we should hide. We need, of course, public confidence in our democratic institutions and I am always of the view that the means by which that can be done is always in our interests and it is on that basis that I have asked that that meeting take place in the commission tomorrow."
Mr Gilmore said he did not want to take the issue to the floor of the House.
"That's why I suggested the course of action that unfortunately has not been followed through on. And that is that the leaders of the political parties would meet and discuss it, and discuss a course of action of action."
"I do not agree that the appropriate forum is the Oireachtas Commission." He said the forum was "an in-house committee", which dealt with the "administration of the House" but which lacked "political accountability".
"The Ceann Comhairle is elected by the members of this House and therefore it is a matter for the House to deal with," the Labour Party leader insisted.