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Here's the first ever Ceann Comhairle to be elected by secret ballot

The 32nd Dáil has completed its first act in electing a new chairperson.

12/9/2013. Fianna Fail OECD Reports Seán Ó Feargháil Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

FIANNA FÁIL TD Seán Ó Feargháil has been elected as Ceann Comhairle of the 32nd Dáil this afternoon.

Ó Feargháil, a deputy for Kildare South who is the party’s chief whip, beat Fine Gael’s Andrew Doyle after the fourth count.

His election will be formally ratified in the Dáil at 2.30pm.

Independent Maureen O’Sullivan, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin, and Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan were all eliminated in the earlier counts.

The Ceann Comhairle is the chair of the Dáil who is expected to observe strict impartiality and keep order in the house.

His new role means that he will automatically win re-election to the next Dáil.

The election was, for the first time, done by way of secret ballot with 157 of the 158 TDs casting their votes in Leinster House this afternoon.

The election of Ó Feargháil comes after two Fine Gael ministers yesterday privately encouraged backbenchers in their own party to put their support behind the Fianna Fáil whip.

The rationale is that the election of Ó Feargháil weakens Fianna Fáil’s Dáil voting numbers, which now go from 44 to 43.

It also prevented O’Sullivan from winning and being automatically re-elected in Dublin Central – where Fine Gael minister Paschal Donohoe is based – and turning it into a two-seater at the next election.

Ó Feargháil is the first Fianna Fáil Ceann Comhairle since Seámus Kirk who held the post in the 30th Dáil between 2009 and 2011.

Making his pitch in the Dáil earlier, he said the new Ceann Comhairle and all TDs must ensure that chamber proceedings are “respectful, constructive” and conducted “in the interests of the Irish people”.

He replaces the outgoing Seán Barrett, a Fine Gael TD, who was automatically re-elected in Dún Laoghaire last month as a result of having served as chair in the 31st Dáil.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Barrett criticised the secret ballot process, a reform introduced by the outgoing government earlier this year.

He said it was “against the spirit of openness in the chamber”. He also said by putting forward two candidates Fine Gael had split the vote, but added:

I’d like to sincerely congratulate him [Seán Ó Feargháil]. I think he’ll do a good job and he’ll have our full support as a Ceann Comhairle, because I think he’ll be independent.

If the last Dáil is anything to go by, Ó Feargháil won’t have an easy job keeping rowdy TDs in order:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

LIVE: TDs prepare for Taoiseach vote as 32nd Dáil meets for the first time

Read: What exactly happens when the new Dáil sits today?

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Hugh O'Connell

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