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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 27 May, 2019
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Pomp, ceremony and then stalemate: An odd first day for the 32nd Dáil

New TDs bounced into Leinster House, but as an utterly predictable day rolled on, the enthusiasm drained.

An impromptu Healy-Rae rally outside the Dáil was among the highlights on day one.
An impromptu Healy-Rae rally outside the Dáil was among the highlights on day one.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE SUITS WERE dry-cleaned or just-purchased, the shirts were fresh and crisp, the ties impeccably knotted, and the dresses matched the shoes.

It seemed as if every TD, be they newly-elected or returning, had put on their Sunday best for what was to be the strangest of days in Leinster House.

Strange, but predictable. 

Everything went as was expected and at the end of it we’re no closer to knowing what government will be held accountable in the 32nd Dáil.

It was a day of procedure and formalities, but also pride as the new TDs brought their families and their friends to check out the new workplace.

“There’s 158 TDs and only 103 seats,” an usher told those who waited impatiently at the stairs leading to the Dáil chamber, hoping to get onto the visitors’ gallery for a look inside.

Outside on the plinth, the excitement was building from just after 9.30am with new TDs welcoming their family and friends, some of whom were visiting the Dáil for the first time.

Cork South-West independent Michael Collins (Fine Gael missed a trick not recruiting him) joked to one reporter that it was like his first day at school.

I’ve no schoolbag or short pants, but I’m here anyway!

But it seemed the only show in town was the Healy-Raes, as brothers Michael and Danny milked the interest in their incredible electoral achievement in Kerry last month.
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There was the return of the Mac as former Fianna Fáil minister Ray MacSharry accompanied his son, Marc, who won a seat for Fianna Fáil in Sligo-Leitrim last month.

“Is he bigger than me? He is today anyway,” said the proud dad as he posed for pictures.

MacSharry senior was back in Leinster House exactly 27 years to the day that he was appointed finance minister.

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Then the bells rang and the formalities began.

Once all safely in the chamber and organised into their seats, TDs listened as Dáil clerk Peter Finnegan read out the proclamation of the 32nd Dáil and the names of each deputy elected to it.

Then it was onto the most intriguing element of the day as the Dáil decided who would chair it.

We heard from the five nominees for Ceann Comhairle before the secret ballot got underway.

Reports this morning indicated that Fine Gael would tactically vote for Seán Ó Fearghail’s election, and so it transpired with the secret ballot yielding the election of the Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South who is now assured of his seat in the 33rd Dáil – which may not be far off if you believe some.

But while the lengthy counting was underway the real show was taking place outside the gates of Leinster House. Yes, back to the Kerry brothers.

The Healy-Rae brothers, a few other family members and supporters staged an impromptu session while standing on top of car, blocking traffic.

Posted by on Monday, 27 May 2019

If two Healy-Raes was something new then the water protesters who assembled at lunchtime were something very familiar.

They gathered in considerable numbers at the gates as they have done so many times over the last three years with Richard Boyd-Barrett giving his usual bombastic address to an enthusiastic crowd.


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Back inside… and Ó Feargháil took the applause from all sides of the house and donned the robes to officially become the new Ceann Comhairle.

“Your job will be a difficult one, no doubt about that,” Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams remarked having had a tempestuous relationship with the last Dáil chair Seán Barrett.

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With his brother beside him, Michael Healy-Rae congratulated the new chair “on behalf of the Healy-Rae party”.

Another election, still no result

Then began the tedious process of nominating, debating and then electing a Taoiseach, when everyone knew the outcome would be stalemate.

Fine Gael’s Noel Rock, having travelled to the Dáil by bus this morning, proposed Kenny on his first day in the chamber.

Fianna Fáíl went for a similar tactic with Lisa Chambers – a constituency rival of Kenny’s – proposing Micheál Martin. Sinn Féin and AAA-PBP opted for experience as Mary Lou McDonald and Ruth Coppinger nominated Gerry Adams and Richard Boyd-Barrett respectively.

A lengthy Dáil debate on the merits of each candidate heard from several speakers, many urging Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to cut a deal and avoid anymore of what many in Leinster House today described as a “charade”.

The four votes on each candidate took well over an hour as TDs walked through the lobbies to state their preference.

There were no surprises, but the odd moment of hilarity, like when Micheal Healy-Rae was spotted sitting in the Taoiseach’s seat.

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Once the formalities were concluded – and no Taoiseach was elected – Kenny addressed the house, informing TDs that he will tender his resignation and then, as caretaker Taoiseach, seek to form a government.

“There are options open to us and we need to examine all those options for a working government that is going to last,” he told the Dáil.

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A lengthy debate continued as Sinn Féin attempted, for some considerable time, to table a motion on the abolition of water charges when the Dáil sits again on 22 March.

As tempers flared, you could see the enthusiasm on many newly-elected TDs’ faces already beginning to drain.

Phones were checked, yawns were stifled and the realisation that there’s no end to the impasse in sight began to set in.

Read: No Taoiseach, no government: TDs have failed to elect a Taoiseach for the 32nd Dáil

The Healy-Rae brothers just had a mini concert outside the Dáil because hey, why not?

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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