Maureen O’Sullivan favourite to be ceann comhairle

If elected under new secret ballot system, she would be the first woman to chair the Dáil

 Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan: examining the pros and cons. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan: examining the pros and cons. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Independent TD for Dublin Central Maureen O’Sullivan is emerging as a strong favourite to become ceann comhairle in the first election for the position next Thursday.

Ms O’Sullivan said yesterday she was interested in the position but would make up her mind on Tuesday whether to let her name go forward.

Filling the position, which is chair of the Dáil, has traditionally been the prerogative of the taoiseach of the day.

However in a change to standing orders in the final days of the outgoing Government’s term of office, it was agreed that when the new Dáil commenced there would be an election by secret ballot for the position, based on the same proportional representation rules that apply to other elections.

Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin will each formally propose a single candidate to go forward for the position. Fine Gael has decided that any of its TDs who can get seven nominations will be allowed to contest, while another candidate is expected to emerge from the Independent ranks.

Pros and cons

That candidate will be Ms O’Sullivan or the Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten, who has also indicated an interest in the position.

Yesterday, Ms O’Sullivan said she had been examining the pros and cons, and the challenges that might be involved.

She said one of the attractions from her point of view was that she would become the first woman ceann comhairle if elected.

“I am conscious of that and also the opportunity of somebody who is totally independent occupying the role.”

Mr Naughten said either Ms O’Sullivan or he would be the candidate, depending on her decision.

“It’s a golden opportunity to have a ceann comhairle who has the backing of members and who acts in the interest of all members,” he said.

It has emerged a fifth Fianna Fáil TD has indicated an interest in seeking that party’s nomination. The Kilkenny TD John McGuinness may put his name before the Fianna Fáíl parliamentary party when it meets at 3pm today to decide its candidate.

The other four who have put their names forward are: Brendan Smith; Pat the Cope Gallagher, Michael Moynihan and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

The agreed Sinn Féin candidate is Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Party colleagues believe the Monaghan TD would be capable of winning wide support across all party lines.

However, others believe that Ms O’Sullivan, a non-partisan figure in the House, would be capable of drawing the backing of TDs not only from the Independent ranks but from all of the parties.