Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty is under fire amid claims in the Dáil that Fine Gael tried to change the rules after it missed the deadline to nominate a candidate for Leas-Ceann Comhairle, writes Daniel McConnell, Irish Examiner Political Editor.
The post comes with a €35,000 a year stipend for the successful candidate, who would in total earn €121,500 once their TDs salary is factored in, the same amount as a junior minister.
The Leas-Ceann Comhairle serves as deputy chairperson of the Dáil.
There were angry scenes in the Dáil this morning as Independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae became visibly angered by the move to change the rules, slamming his first in fury.
He accused the Government of “disgraceful” behaviour.
“This is a dirty start to the Government’s work,” Mr Healy-Rae said. “The people of Ireland will not forgive you for this,” he added.
The major row over the Leas Ceann Comhairle position has erupted after Fine Gael missed the deadline for nominations last Friday.
Fianna Fáil nominated Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher, Sinn Féin put forward Sean Crowe and Independent TD Mattie McGrath was also nominated.
But for some reason, Fine Gael submitted no candidate, even though party stalwart Bernard Durkan is known to be interested.
This morning, during the Order of Business, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams pressed Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald as to why the matter was not being dealt with this week.
In the Dáil, Ms Fitzgerald sought advice from Ms Doherty, who was sitting directly behind her.
Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil that Ms Doherty sought an extension for the nomination process - which may allow Fine Gael to put forward their own candidate despite missing the deadline.
Ms Fitzgerald’s was forced to withdrew a claim that consent was granted to do so by the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl.
Mr Ó Fearghaíl immediately interceded and informed the Tánaiste that this was not the case, prompting her to correct the record.
But a clearly angry Mr Healy-Rae claimed Fine Gael was trying to bend the rules to suit the party.