Two candidates for Ceann Comhairle are Denis Naughten and Seán Ó Fearghaíl
FF and SF on level pegging in Dáil if incumbent returned
Independent TD Denis Naughten has formally submitted his nomination papers before the 6pm deadline. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Two candidates will contest the position of Ceann Comhairle when the Dáil resumes on Thursday.
When nominations closed at 6pm it was confirmed that incumbent Seán Ó Fearghaíl will face former minister for communications and Independent TD Denis Naughten for the role.
To enter the race a candidate must have seven TDs sign their nomination papers.
The position as speaker of the House comes with a salary of €175,699 plus expenses and allowances. The salary includes the basic TD salary of €96,189 and an additional €79,510.
If Mr Ó Fearghaíl remains as Ceann Comhairle Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin will have the same number of voting TDs at 37 each.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl, who received 10 nominations from Fianna Fáil colleagues, said two of the party’s TDs had raised the issue with him but at the same time said they would vote for him.
He had carefully considered the matter as someone from the “Fianna Fáil family” and noted that in 2016 when he ran for the office Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin had told him that one vote would not make any difference.
“When you look at the situation we’re in now, what we all want to see can’t be a government dependent on the vote of one person,” he added.
He believed he had shown impartiality, objectivity and fairness to all in the role and this would be guaranteed again if he was re-elected, he said.
While still an office holder, he said he could not canvass but he spoke with the leaders of each of the parties or left a message for those he did not get to talk to, to inform them that he was running again.
Mr Naughten, TD for Roscommon-Galway emailed colleagues to confirm his candidacy and said there had been a consistent message during the election campaign on the doorsteps of “public frustration with accountability”.
“In an open, questioning culture, we need an effective and questioning parliament,” he said, adding that it was becoming more difficult to get straight answers to straight questions.
He said if elected he would only serve only one term because his aim was to re-assert the authority of individual parliamentarians.
Independent TD Michael McNamara had earlier withdrawn from the race and said he would be supporting Mr Naughten.
“Having spoken to him at length, I believe he will implement some badly needed reform in the position,” he said.
Mr McNamara had earlier in the week emailed Oireachtas colleagues seeking a nomination and set out a series of proposals for Dáil reform in a letter emailed to colleagues on Monday night and said he would be interested in taking the role for just six months while reforms are implemented.
He also said he would stand aside if an alternative candidate came forward.
Sinn Féin has confirmed it will not be nominating a candidate for the role. The party’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said they wanted to make sure it had as many TDs as possible to make up a government for change.
Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae said that given the current “very uncertain time”he would be voting for Mr O Fearghaíl “because I believe he is the most experience and right person for that position”.
Independent Michael Healy-Rae said “to be fair the outgoing Ceann Comhairle was very mindful of his duties. He was very responsible. He was very articulate in the job in the way he fulfilled his role.”
Solidarity People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the group had not discussed the issue but were likely to make a decision on Thursday morning.
He said however that he had told Mr O Fearghaíl and Mr Naughten when each phoned him that they would have voted for Ms Murphy had she been running.
Five candidates entered the race in 2016 – Mr Ó Fearghaíl, Mr Durkan, Fine Gael TD Andrew Doyle, Independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan and Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin and each gave a five-minute speech about their plans and aims and why they should be considered.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl was elected on the fifth count in the secret ballot.