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Independent TD Catherine Connolly elected Leas-Cheann Comhairle in shock defeat for Government

Connolly defeated Government-backed Fergus O’Dowd 77 votes to 74.

LAST UPDATE | 23 Jul 2020

GALWAY WEST INDEPENDENT TD Catherine Connolly has been elected Leas-Cheann Comhairle in a surprise victory, defeating rival candidate Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd in a close 77 to 74 votes result. 

Connolly, first elected to Dáil Eireann in 2016′s General Election, was elected this afternoon and becomes the first woman to hold the position in the Dáil’s 101-year history. 

The 63-year-old defeated favourite O’Dowd (71) in a defeat for the Government after a bumpy first month for the Coalition. 

It’s believed that at least 10 Fianna Fáil TDs voted against O’Dowd and that there is astonishment that the Coalition is experiencing divisions so early on in its term. 

Voting by secret ballot took place at the Convention Centre today with TDs filling out ballot papers at the auditorium. 

Connolly’s election is seen a shock defeat for O’Dowd who was widely tipped to win. The position usually goes to the Opposition but the Fine Gael TD had the backing of all three Coalition parties. 

Speaking of the outcome of the result this afternoon, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is “disappointed for Fergus because I supported him”.

“It’s a secret ballot and one of the reasons why the reforms came into parliament in terms of secret ballot, is political scientists are of a view and we accepted, is it speaks to the autonomy of the parliament in terms of the Ceann Comhairle and Leas-Ceann Comhairle.

“But I can’t speculate any further than that… and I think it’s parliament taking its decision. I’m disappointed for Fergus, he’s a very experienced parliamentarian. I wish Catherine the very best.”

O’Dowd, who has been a TD for Louth since 2002, is best-known in recent years for chairing the Oireachtas Transport Committee which conducted an inquiry into the Football Association of Ireland (FAI).

Connolly is well-known as a member of the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC). 

The Galway TD has often packed a punch when grilling witnesses and has consistently called for accountability when it comes to the mismanagement of State funds. 

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is the Deputy Chairperson of the Dáil and carries out the duties of the Ceann Comhairle – currently Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghail – when they are absent. 

With reporting from Conor McCrave

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