Seán Ó Fearghaíl first Ceann Comhairle chosen by secret ballot

Vote is described as a tactical decision to ensure that Fianna Fáil has one less TD

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl (top, centre) at the first sitting of the 32nd Dáil on March 10th. Photograph: Maxwell’s

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl (top, centre) at the first sitting of the 32nd Dáil on March 10th. Photograph: Maxwell’s

 

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl was elected as Ceann Comhairle yesterday, becoming the first chair to be chosen by secret ballot.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl contested the position against four other candidates including two Fine Gael TDs Andrew Doyle and Bernard Durkan.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl secured 74 votes in total, and finished 16 votes ahead of Mr Doyle.

Fine Gael sources claimed a small number of their TDs supported Mr Ó Fearghaíl in the secret ballot. “There are at least three or four votes for Ó Fearghaíl that must have come from Fine Gael. Two-thirds of Doyle’s vote transferred to Ó Fearghaíl. The strategy had an impact, make no mistake about it. It was dirty tactics by our own.”

It had been claimed that Fine Gael Ministers were actively encouraging members to transfer votes to Mr Ó Fearghaíl.

It was described as a tactical decision to ensure Fianna Fáil had one less TD as the two parties separately try to form a government.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Doyle said he had no regrets about running for the position. “I am very proud to have contested the role. It was a very pleasant experience.

“I am happy with the result and I wish Seán Ó Fearghaíl all the best in the position.”

Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, who was described as an early favourite, was eliminated after the third count.

Mr Durkan was eliminated after the first count and his 21 votes were distributed.Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin was eliminated after the second count having received 24 votes and no transfers.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said it was an “immense personal privilege to hold this position and not one I take lightly”.

Difficult time

Mr Ó Fearghaíl said: “I implore you the members to respect each other’s voices as each of us stand not simply for ourselves but for our constituents.”

Mr Ó Fearghaíl’s election was the first business of the 32nd Dáil yesterday.

Fine Gael TD and Mr Ó Fearghaíl’s constituency colleague Martin Heydon congratulated him on his election. “I have seen first hand how he can leave party politics aside when dealing with important constituency issues and I know he will bring these qualities to his new role of Ceann Comhairle,” he said.

“I look forward to Deputy Ó Fearghaíl overseeing further reform of Dáil Éireann to build on the work of the last government in this area. There is an appetite for Dáil reform across the political divide at this important time of change.”