Fianna Fáil demands Barrett withdraw claim

Chief whip says party will not tolerate a ‘false accusation’ from Ceann Comhairle

Fianna Fáil has demanded Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett withdraw his claim that the party attempted to undermine him as the row over his ruling a debate out of order continues.

Mr Barrett this week faces the prospect of the main Opposition parties expressing no confidence in him in the Dáil after he did not allow a debate on the creation of a commission of inquiry into allegations of Garda malpractice.

Fianna Fáil chief whip Seán Ó Fearghaíl said his party could not tolerate Mr Barrett’s claim in a radio interview last week that it was “perfectly obvious” the Opposition parties were out to undermine him.

"He said it in anger and was clearly very emotional about it. In the cool light of dawn he should retract it. If he doesn't there's almost an inevitability to the course that will be pursued," Mr Ó Fearghaíl told The Irish Times.


“There is no basis for the assertion on his part that Fianna Fáil have been trying to undermine him but Fianna Fáil will not tolerate a false accusation. If he doesn’t pull back I think it’s inevitable Fianna Fáil will table a motion of no confidence. He is the author of his own destiny.”

Fianna Fáil will discuss the matter at its parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday morning.

“I was astonished that he would make what is effectively a political charge,” Mr Ó Fearghaíl continued. “We’ve asked him to withdraw it and the ball is in his court. I don’t envisage Fianna Fáil being able to express confidence in someone who says we have undermined him.”

Meanwhile, Mr Barrett was strongly defended by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, who likened recent outbursts of disorder in the Dáil chamber to street protests.

“In the Dáil the Ceann Comhairle is the first among equals. The office should have the respect of everybody in the chamber,” Mr Flanagan said.

“One of his main functions is to maintain discipline. That in recent times has proved difficult and challenging as the type of street protests that we have seen in recent months have now entered the Dáil chamber.

“It’s essential the speaker commands respect. I detect an element of political opportunism on the part of the Opposition who are attempting to obstruct the workings of the Dáil.”

Mr Flanagan was critical of what he described as the "spectacle" of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams together staging a Dáil walkout in a row over Mr Barrett's ruling.

The Irish Times reported last week 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 has maintained he was acting on legal advice. However, Labour TD Pat Rabbitte yesterday indicated he had reservations about that advice.

“The whole reason that parliament came into being was that powerful vested interests or others could not gag parliament,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics programme.

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Acting Features Editor of The Irish Times