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Independents demand that Ross be appointed chair of Dáil accounts committee

The Oireachtas’s most high profile committee is usually chaired by the largest opposition party – but the technical group says Shane Ross is the best man for it.

THE DÁIL’S TECHNICAL group is demanding that independent TD Shane Ross be appointed as chair of one of the Oireachtas’s most high-profile committees – putting it on a collision course with Fianna Fáil.

The Sunday Times reports today (subscription required) that the grouping wants Shane Ross to be given the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee, which is seen as the most powerful and the most respected of the Oireachtas’s two-dozen committees.

The position is traditionally given to a member of the largest opposition party, as a mark of inter-party collegiality – meaning that Fianna Fáil, which has already proposed Kilkenny TD John McGuinness for the job, would ordinarily have first dibs on it.

But the technical group believes that, as a grouping almost equal in size to FF, it should have a say in the appointment.

Finian McGrath, who chairs the 16-strong grouping of independents and TDs from smaller parties, said its members – and Ross in particular – had a better record on public spending than Fianna Fáil had shown during its time in government.

“We have a mandate of 16 TDs,” he told the Times’ Stephen O’Brien, “so we will be seeking the chairmanship of a high-profile committee.”

Ross added that he had been examining wasteful expenditure for a long time, and pointed to his work in uncovering the “terrible excesses” at the State’s training agency FÁS.

The number of Oireachtas committees is set to be drastically cut under the new coalition, with most figures agreed that 12 is a likely number for new committees.

The chairmanship of the parties is usually decided upon by the government side of the Dáil, gives opposition parties a small number of such posts. The membership of the committees is arranged by mutual agreement.

Chairmanships have previously been used as makeweights in coalition negotiations – Jackie Healy-Rae was a two-term chair of the Social Protection committee – and it is thought that Labour will be given a healthy chunk of the government’s allocation.

Who should be given the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee?

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Read more on the dispute in the Sunday Times (subscription) >

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Gavan Reilly

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