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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Ceann Comhairle

Here's who is in the mix for the job of keeping order in the next Dáil

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy is not ruling herself out of the running for Ceann Comhairle.

SOCIAL DEMOCRATS TD Catherine Murphy is not ruling herself out of the running to be the chairperson of the Dáil. 

At least five TDs are believed to be interested in the role of Ceann Comhairle, which will be chosen when the new Dáil sesion begins. 

The Ceann Comhairle is the chair of the Dáil who is expected to observe strict impartiality and keep order in the house. Whoever is elected to the role is automatically re-elected to the next Dáil.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Feargháil was Ceann Comhairle of the 32nd Dáil, and was the first to be elected by secret ballot in 2016. 

Previously the government of the day would simply choose who would take up the role. 

It is understood that the Ó Feargháil is interested in seeking re-election as the Ceann Comhairle on Thursday when the Dáil returns after the general election. 

However, other names have also been mentioned in the race, such as Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan, who was eliminated the last time he put his name forward for the role in 2016 when Ó Feargháil won out. 

Murphy is understood to be considering running, with some speculating that it would finally put to bed the discussion about the leadership of the Social Democrats, leaving Roísín Shortall at the helm of the party, which now has six seats in the Dáil.

There are other potential candidates for the high-profile role such as independent Roscommon TD Denis Naughten and Fine Gael’s Heather Humphreys. 

Last week, Labour’s Brendan Howlin, who is set to step down as party leader, ruled himself out for the job, though some in Leinster House have said that he might still throw his name in the hat. 

There has never been a woman Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, which is leading TDs to believe that Murphy or Humphreys might be the best placed to take over the coveted role.

The election 

Nominations for the role of Ceann Comhairle must be submitted to the Clerk of the Dáil’s office by 6pm on Wednesday, with the nomination requiring the supporting signatures of no fewer than seven other Members of the House. 

If there is only one candidate nominated then this TD’s name will be announced and put to the Dáil. 

But if there is more than one candidate then their names will be read out and each candidate will have five minutes to make their case to the Dáil. The clerk will then announce a secret ballot and the voting bells (known as the division bells) will be rung.

Voting takes place using the PR-STV system, so TDs will mark candidates in order of preference. They will vote in the privacy of specially erected polling booths in the voting lobbies just off the Dáil chamber.

Once all members have cast their votes the ballot will conclude and the Dáil will be suspended so the votes can be counted. The quota is 50% plus one. Theoretically, if all members vote correctly (no spoiled ballots) then the quota is 80. As soon as a candidate has reached this threshold, they are deemed elected.

Once elected, the successful candidate’s name will be announced at the count centre, near the Seanad chamber. The Dáil resumes and the election of the new Ceann Comhairle is formally put to the house. If 30 members call for a division then a vote must take place, but if there are fewer than this then the candidate is formally elected.

No other Dáil business may be conducted until a Ceann Comhairle is elected. 

The first business for the Ceann Comhairle is to seek nominations for the position of Taoiseach. He or she will usually ask a member of the largest party in the House to nominate their party leader for the position of Taoiseach.

If there is more than one candidate for the position of Taoiseach, it is normal for there to be a debate on the merits of the various candidates, where a vote will follow.

There is no deadline by which a Taoiseach must be nominated. If the Dáil fails to nominate a Taoiseach, which is expected to happen on Thursday as government formation talks continue, the Dáil can be adjourned until another day. 

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