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O’Dowd misses out on Leas Ceann Comhairle after shock result

Fergus O'Dowd TD
Fine Gael TD for Louth and East Meath, Fergus O'Dowd. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Fine Gael TD for Louth Fergus O’Dowd TD has been beaten to the position as Leas Ceann Comhairle, otherwise known as deputy chairperson, in Dáil Éireann – after Independent Catherine Connolly pipped him to the role.

The Drogheda-based Deputy was put put forward as the government candidate for the role at the beginning of the month, saying he hoped to “do the Oireachtas proud.” He had been the agreed candidate between the coalition parties and was expected to win the vote given the majority in his favour. The result is an embarrassing one to the coalition.

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It is reported that during a parliamentary party held last night that Fianna Fáil agreed to back Mr O’Dowd “through gritted teeth.” He only received 74 votes, despite the coalition government having 84 votes available to them as well as nine Independent TDs who support the government.

A vote was taken on Thursday morning, which O’Dowd was expected to emerge victorious. However, Independent TD Connolly, who had been backed by Sinn Féin for the role, won it – thus becoming the first ever woman to hold the position or that of Ceann Comhairle. Denis Naughton, who lost the election for Ceann Comhairle, had been holding the role on a temporary basis.

Deputy O’Dowd has been in Dáil Éireann since 2002 and has run four successful re-election campaigns since then. Prior to that, he served as a Senator for five years. He began his career in politics in 1974, first as a member of Drogheda Town Council and then on Louth County Council.

In March 2011, O’Dowd was appointed a Junior Minister with responsibility for the NewEra Project, which included the creation of Irish Water in 2013. He has also chaired the Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport since July 2017.

The last Louth TD to hold either the Ceann Comhairle or Leas Ceann Comhairle role was Seamus Kirk who served as Ceann Comhairle for 15 months between October 2009 and March 2011. The only Louth TD to have previously served as Leas Ceann Comhairle in Dáil Éireann was John O’Kelly, who held the role in the very first Dáil in 1919.

The position of Leas Ceann Comhairle has a salary of €96,189, with an additional €38,787 salaried allowance.

Speaking before the vote today, Deputy O’Dowd said: “It is a great honour for me to be nominated by my party Fine Gael and also by Fianna Fáil to contest this contest,” O’Dowd said this morning before the vote took place. “It is a great honour to be given this opportunity and I want to acknowledge everybody here regardless of party, regardless of background. We all have the same mandate here. We are the voices of the people, we are democracy in action.

“If elected, I promise to always be fair, be fair to everybody, to be impartial, to give everybody due respect and recognition for their points of view regardless of what that view is. My door will always be open to any member to listen any views and take on board suggestions. I believe as a politician in inclusion in our society and our Oireachtas, in dialogue.

If I do hold this position, I will be business like fair and I will always strive to uphold the recognised rights of our members. I know how hard it is to become a member of this house and I know how hard it is to fight elections. Most of all, we are all here to represent our constituents, to fight for our communities, our county, our people, our district.”

“I guarantee fairness, equality and above all I believe I will be absolutely impartial,” he concluded.

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