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That's the end of that

'In the heat of the moment': Seán Barrett withdraws claim opposition out to undermine him

Earlier, Sinn Féin’s leader said the dispute was deflecting from the real issue.

Updated 4.30pm 

CEANN COMHAIRLE SEÁN Barrett has withdrawn his previous claim that the opposition parties were out to undermine him.

In a personal statement to the Dáil this afternoon, Barrett said that the comments were made “in the heat of the moment” during a radio interview last Friday and said he was happy to withdraw them.

The withdrawal has been made in a bid to resolve a row with Fianna Fáil which had threatened a motion of no confidence in the Dáil chair.

Barrett has come under pressure for his decision not to allow a debate on the setting up an inquiry into the allegations of Garda malpractice contained in the Guerin report.

This damning report led to former justice minister Alan Shatter’s resignation last year. It emerged last week that Shatter wrote to the Ceann Comhairle in a bid to change the inquiry’s terms of reference.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil that he would publish all correspondence in relation to the issue and insisted that Shatter had no power or influence to stop debate on the terms of reference. The government had hoped to hold a two-hour debate on the inquiry’s terms of reference prior to the Ceann Comhairle’s ruling.

In his statement to TDs today, Barrett said that “at no time did I come under any pressure for anybody in reaching my decision [to not allow a debate]“.

Barrett also said he would ask the Dáil’s procedural committee, CPP, to examine changes to the rules of the house, known as standing orders, around debates on sub judice issues.

Here is his brief statement in full:

Video / YouTube

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams welcomed Barrett’s withdrawal of his comments.

Barrett’s comments today are likely to result in the withdrawal of any immediate threat of a motion of no confidence in Barrett.


Earlier, a Sinn Féin source said that they expected Barrett to withdraw remarks made last week that the opposition were trying to undermine him.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told his TDs at their weekly parliamentary party meeting to leave the matter with him given the ‘importance and gravity of the issue’.

Yesterday, Barrett released a statement clarifying remarks he made last week during an interview with RTÉ. Barrett said TDs were entitled to question his decision to block a Dáil debate on the establishment of a Commission of Investigation into Garda malpractice.

Barrett defended his decision, however, saying it was made based on legal advice and not a letter sent to him by former Justice Minister Alan Shatter. Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin walked out of the Dáil in protest of the move last Wednesday.

During the interview, Barrett accused opposition TDs of attempting to “undermine” him. He had up until this afternoon rejected calls to withdraw the comment.

Public Expenditure and Reform Minister said earlier that he hoped the opposition would not seek to “humiliate” Barrett.

‘Enda’s fault’

This morning at Leinster House, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said that the row between opposition TDs and the Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett is deflecting from the real issue at play, namely the Government stifling debate.

The Sinn Féin leader said responsibility for the dispute “lies very, very clearly with the Taoiseach”.

Today, Adams told reporters Barrett had “no option” but to withdraw the remark as it was “a totally unfounded charge”.

“The other issue, which has been lost a wee bit, is that a debate was prevented in the Dáil at the behest of a member of Fine Gael, the former minister Alan Shatter.”

The Taoiseach didn’t even divulge that he had received a letter from Mr Shatter until he was pressed to do so. He stayed schtum the first time he was asked and then, under pressure, he revealed that he had the Ceann Comhairle had both received letters.

Adams said that not allowing debate on an issue as “hugely important and serious” as “alleged malpractice in the upper echelons of An Garda Síochána” was “probably unprecedented”.

He added that Enda Kenny could have facilitated debate at another time by re-ordering the Dáil’s business.

As is characteristic of the this Government, he refused to do so. He used their majority to ram-rod it through and that’s where we end up in this difficulty.

Outside Government Buildings this morning, Howlin told reporters that the job of Ceann Ceann Comhairle was a “stressful” one and said he hoped that people would “reflect on their positions”.

Adams said he hoped to meet with Barrett later today, adding that Sinn Féin will discuss the possibility of proposing a motion of no-confidence in him. However, party sources indicated that that a no confidence motion was not imminent.

Barrett, who met with party whips today, is expected to make the letter he received from Shatter available to Adams and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in an attempt to quell the disquiet.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said this morning that Martin spoke with Barrett last night and there was further contact this morning.

They added that they were waiting to see what documentation was forwarded from the Ceann Comhairle’s office prior to the meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in Leinster House at midday.

- additional reporting from Órla Ryan 

That big row which led to the Dáil walkout is getting bigger (and now Shatter’s involved)

Seán Barrett says opposition parties are entitled to question his decisions

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