Ó Fearghaíl and O’Sullivan favourites to be elected ceann comhairle

Five TDs have put themselves forward for anonymous ballot

 Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan: said she would seek support from across the party political spectrum. Photograph:  Nick Bradshaw

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan: said she would seek support from across the party political spectrum. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw


Five TDs are seeking the office of ceann comhairle, with Fianna Fáil candidate Seán Ó Fearghaíl and Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan favourites to take the role.

Fine Gael TDs Bernard Durkan and Andrew Doyle have also confirmed they are seeking support for the position, as is Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.

The winner will be decided by secret ballot and a number of Fine Gael TDs are expected to back the Fianna Fáil candidate.

“If O’Fearghaíl is appointed ceann comhairle that is one less Fianna Fáil TD and in the numbers game we are all facing into that could be crucial,” a Fine Gael source said.

“Also if Maureen was elected Dublin Central would be a two-seat constituency making it harder for Paschal (Donohoe) to retain his seat.”

Mr O’Fearghaíl will also have the backing of his 43 parliamentary party colleagues. Ms O’Sullivan has the support of a number of Independents and the Green Party.

Sinn Féin is also to consider at a meeting today whether to encourage TDs to transfer to Ms O’Sullivan.

Ms O’Sullivan told The Irish Times she would seek support from across the party political spectrum. She said there was widespread acknowledgment that the Dáil needed to be radically reformed.

“Everyone has the same mandate. Everyone is elected in the same way. There should not be a pecking order,” she said.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Ms O’Sullivan provided the chance for the first Independent and woman to be chosen for the role.

Even though two Fine Gael candidates are seeking the support of their party colleagues, Mr Durkan said it was unlikely that a Fine Gael candidate would take the position.

“The numbers game would suggest I should not feel too confident about it but I think the same time the democratic process should be allowed to take place,” he said.

“I have served in the chair before and I tried to always be as fair and impartial as possible so I hope people will consider that when voting on Thursday.”

Fair hand

Mr Doyle said he had the backing of two senior Fine Gael Ministers for the position. He said he had served as chairman of the agriculture committee in Leinster House and had given a fair hand to everyone.

“I worked with Éamon Ó Cuív and Martin Ferris and I think both will admit that I was always fair, impartial and gave an even spread of time to every member of the committee,” he said. “The job is more than a referee. The position is to manage the Dáil itself and to be the speaker of the House.”

Mr Ó Caoláin said he had been a member of the Dáil for 19 years and was keen to offer every individual TD the same rights. He has written to every member of the new Dáil seeking their support and their highest preference vote.

The election is the first business to which a new Dáil must attend before it can deal with the election of a taoiseach. Nominations must be received not later than 6pm today.

Ceann comhairle: The role and the candidates

The ceann comhairle is the chairperson of the Dáil appointed to oversee the running of business in a fair and impartial way.

The person is also elected to prescribe the running order of the Dáil and to enforce obedience to House rules.

He or she is also the chair of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which adjudicates on the business of the Dáil and the Oireachtas Commission.

The ceann comhairle does not actively participate in politics upon election, and secures automatic re-election to the House.

This is the first time the position has been voted on by secret ballot.

Andrew Doyle: Has been a TD for Wicklow since 2007, and has served as chairman of the Dáil’s agriculture committee.

Mr Doyle said that position proved he was willing to work with all political parties.

“The characteristics for the position are an ability to work with all sides and to ensure the workings of the Dáil are as efficient as possible.”

Bernard Durkan: Has been a TD for Kildare since 1981, and served as chairman when ceann comhairle Seán Barrett and leas-ceann comhairle Micheál Kitt were absent.

“The aim . . . is to be fair and impartial, and the democratic process is upheld as best as possible.

“The order of the House must be upheld too. I hope people consider my time as chair.”

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: Has been a TD for Cavan-Monaghan since 1997.

“It is very important the ceann comhairle – who would for the very first time be elected by the members of the House – would hold to the highest standards of protecting the individual representatives in the Dáil.

“That would be very important. A number of other areas of Dáil reform also need to take place, and as chair of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges and the Oireachtas Commission, the ceann comhairle would have an opportunity to encourage and lead on critical areas of reform.”

Seán Ó Fearghaíl: First elected as a TD for Kildare South in 2002, and has been a TD since. He was the Fianna Fáil whip in the last Dáil.

He won the support of his party for the nomination, beating Pat the Cope Gallagher, Brendan Smith and Michael Moynihan.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl did not respond to requests for comment.

Maureen O’Sullivan: Has been an Independent TD for Dublin Central since 2009.

Ms O’Sullivan would become the first female ceann comhairle if elected .

“The Dáil needs to be reformed, and as an Independent TD I am well aware that the Independents have not been afforded the same rights.

“I think that needs to change,” Ms O’Sullivan said.

“But the entire political system also needs to be reformed, and that stretches to the committees also.