FF and SF swerve question of no confidence motion in Barrett

Vehement Opposition reaction to Ceann Comhairle charge of bid to undermine him

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett: Was asked by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to withdraw comments that Mr Martin said questioned Fianna Fáil’s “motivation”. Photograph: The Irish Times

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett: Was asked by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to withdraw comments that Mr Martin said questioned Fianna Fáil’s “motivation”. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett is facing the prospect of the main Opposition parties expressing no confidence in him after he suggested Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin were attempting to undermine him.

Micheál Martin called on Mr Barrett to withdraw comments he claimed questioned Fianna Fáil’s “motivation” if he was to retain the confidence of his party.

Gerry Adams said he rejected Mr Barrett’s comments and a Sinn Féin spokesman said the party had no confidence in Mr Barrett.

However, spokespeople for both parties declined to say if they would actually table a motion of no confidence.

The Irish Times reported yesterday that former minister for justice Alan Shatter asked Mr Barrett to rule out his handling of claims made by whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe from an inquiry into allegations of Garda malpractice.

Mr Shatter argued that the inclusion of references to his handling of Sgt McCabe’s claims would interfere with or prejudice a High Court action he is taking.

Mr Barrett, earlier this week, ruled the inquiry’s terms of reference be voted on by the Dáil, including references to the handling of the claims by the then minster for justice, without debate.

Opposition deputies staged a Dáil walkout in a row over Mr Barrett’s ruling. He yesterday suggested the main Opposition parties were out to undermine him. “Of course they are, it’s perfectly obvious,” he said.

However, a senior Fine Gael source said it was hard to take Fianna Fáil’s position seriously after Mr Martin participated in a walk out with Mr Adams.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Mr Barrett also said he was “not influenced by any letter” on his ruling and said he had been “dragged into this because this is a governmental matter, not for me as Ceann Comhairle”.

‘Personal letter’

Mr Barrett said he “did not receive a personal letter” from Mr Shatter, adding: “The letters I received were addressed to the Ceann Comhairle.” Letters came from Mr Shatter’s lawyers, he said.

However, Mr Shatter directly sent a letter to Mr Barrett on Wednesday which read: “I am sorry again to communicate again with you about this matter. I do however regard it as a matter of great seriousness that is not only relevant to the circumstances in which I find myself but is relevant to how public business is conducted in this State.”

Mr Shatter yesterday said he would address the issues concerned at a later stage; it was “not appropriate” to do so now.

Earlier this week, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly strongly criticised the Ceann Comhairle and spoke of a “constitutional crisis”. Mr Barrett said he told Tánaiste Joan Burton he “objected to that remark”.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said Mr Barrett was acting in accordance with legal advice. “That’s the position and I’m happy with that decision,” he said.

Labour Party Minister for Communications Alex White said Mr Barrett’s “rulings are critically important to the smooth functioning of the parliament”.

“That’s a decision he made. It’s not a decision that the Government made and Government was very willing indeed for that debate to occur in relation to the commission.”