Varadkar asks Naughten to fill role of Leas-Cheann Comhairle as temporary measure

Varadkar asks Naughten to fill role of Leas-Cheann Comhairle as temporary measure

The election of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle could create another obstacle for the state, as the country remains without a mandated government.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle holds office as the Deputy Chairman of Dáil Éireann, and in the absence of the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle performs the duties and exercises the authority of the Ceann Comhairle in chamber.

The need for a deputy has never been so pressing, as the Dáil operates with smaller numbers and a possibility that some members of the house, including Mr Ó Fearghaíl could be incapacitated for weeks, due to contracting Covid-19 or mandatory self-isolation.

The vote for the role will take place during the Business Committee of Dáil Éireann at 9am on Thursday morning before the Dail itself reconvenes around 10:30am.

It's understood that the party's Chief Whips, or acting Chief Whips, will bring their party's votes to the committee so they can be counted, and a new Leas Cheann Comhairle can be elected.

This ad-hoc measure has been implemented to limit the possible spread of COVID19 and implement social distancing.

The election is usually done by secret ballot and the person selected is then to be formally elected as Leas-Cheann Comhairle by an open vote in the Dáil.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has asked former Communications Minister and Independent TD for Roscommon, Denis Naughten to fill the role as a temporary measure as the country grapples with the pandemic.

"He asked me last Monday at the commencement of the party leaders meeting," Mr Naughten said.

"It wasn't a shock as it had been agreed at business committee last week, that they would take this approach rather than what usually happens.

"I knew it was coming and that is had been discussed by party leaders at some stage but I hadn't ever contemplated putting myself forward this time.

"I agreed to do it because the Taoiseach had said; 'Look we're in a difficult crises at the moment the and the last thing we need is to have a constitutional crisis on top of that' and in the interest of trying to facilitate to consensus, I was wiling to let my name go forward.

"However, I know party leaders were determined that they wanted contest for it, Fianna Fáil were in their own contest at the time, but then that went out the window."

The other main parties have already selected their candidates for the role.

Sinn Féin have selected Aengus Ó Snodaigh, the party's Chief Whip, and spokesperson on Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht.

Mr Ó Snodaigh was selected by party leader Mary Lou McDonald due to his experience in the Dáil, first elected for Dublin South East in 2002.

"He's been around the Óireachtas for as long as any of our people," a Sinn Féin spokesman said.

"He's been the party whip for well over a decade, and knows the process of the place better than anyone, and that's the logic behind the choice.

"He was part of the Business Committee since reforms in the last Dáil, and knows the way around the place."

Varadkar asks Naughten to fill role of Leas-Cheann Comhairle as temporary measure

Fianna Fáil have selected Brendan Smith, their parliamentary party chairman, and TD for Cavan Monaghan.

John McGuinness also put forward his name for the role, but was not successful.

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