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These are the TDs in the mix for one of the most important jobs in the new Dáil

Before they try to elect a Taoiseach, TDs will have to elect a new Ceann Comhairle next week.

Updated 3.55pm 

WHILE ALL EYES will be on the election of the Taoiseach when the new Dáil sits for the first time next week, the race for one of the most important jobs in the house is heating up.

The position of Ceann Comhairle will have to be filled before the election of the Taoiseach is held when the 32nd Dáil sits for the first time next Thursday.

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

As we’ve reported on over the last five years, this is not always an easy task.

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This time around the position will be filled by secret ballot of TDs. Previously it was effectively in the gift of the government of the day. This was changed under reforms introduced by the outgoing government earlier this year.

The outgoing Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett said he will not the seek the position again. Having served in the post during the last Dáil, he was automatically re-elected as Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire last month.

In this Dáil, any TD will be able to stand for the position provided they have been proposed by seven other deputies. Special polling booths are being set-up inside the chamber for next week ahead of the first-ever secret ballot.

This raises the prospect that a TD from an opposition party or an independent could take the post. Contenders will be attracted to the position not only by the status, perks and salary (it’s the same as a cabinet minister’s) but also the fact that it means they’ll be automatically re-elected to the next Dáil.

Fine Gael’s Waterford TD John Deasy has said this is a “serious position” that he is interested in. Deasy is a staunch critic of Enda Kenny and the pair have an uneasy relationship.

JOHN DEASY FINE GAELS ALCOHOL ABUSE PLAN John Deasy Source: Gareth Chaney/Photocall Ireland!

It is thought that while Deasy would not have the endorsement of the Fine Gael leadership some of the more rebellious elements of the party would be prepared to support him, as would some in Fianna Fáil.

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd is another Fine Gael deputy who has declared an interest in the post. O’Dowd has been a critic of his own party in the past and said he would be “independent of thought”.

Fine Gael’s leadership would be more amenable to the former junior minister than Deasy. The same is true of outgoing Sports Minister Michael Ring, a constituency colleague of the Taoiseach’s, whose name has also been mentioned.

Fianna Fáil has confirmed it will select one nominee for the position with four TDs interested in the post.

Fianna Fáil’s Kildare South deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl is putting his name forward having served as the party’s whip in the last Dáil. His fluency in Irish would be an asset in the position.

16/01/2007 Pat the Cope Gallagher Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher

The same is true for the newly-elected Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, a former minister and MEP whose vast experience of politics would be an asset.

The two other TDs putting their names forward are Cork North-West’s Michael Moynihan, who chaired the party’s constituencies committee in the run-up to the election, and Cavan-Monaghan’s Brendan Smith, a former cabinet minister.

Fianna Fáil will pick its nominee through a vote of its parliamentary party next Monday.

Fianna Fáil TD and former chair of the Public Accounts Committee John McGuinness has also been mentioned as a possible contender. He has a famously uneasy relationship with the party leadership having been critical of Micheál Martin and the party’s direction throughout the last Dáil.

Among the independents, names that have been mentioned are Dublin Bay North deputy Finian McGrath, who is popular amongst all parties in Leinster House and Waterford independent TD John Halligan. 

24/2/2016 General Election Campaigns Starts Finian McGrath Source: RollingNews.ie

Sinn Féin, which lost confidence in the last Ceann Comhairle, has nominated veteran Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for the position.

Outgoing Labour minister Brendan Howlin, who served as Leas (deputy) Ceann Comhairle in the 30th Dáil, had been rumoured as a possible candidate for the party.

The election of the next Ceann Comhairle takes place under the single transferable vote system with the first candidate to command 50% plus one of the total votes deemed elected.

It’s all over: All 158 seats in the 32nd Dáil have now been filled

The aftermath: Fianna Fáil toasts success, as Fine Gael looks increasingly chaotic

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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