The opposition is considering a motion of no confidence in Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett after a row escalated over his decision to ban a debate on the terms of an inquiry into garda malpractice.
Both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin members yesterday said they had no confidence in Mr Barrett.
It comes after the chairman of the Dáil gave a heated interview in which he defended pulling a Dáil debate after getting a legal warning from Alan Shatter, the former justice minister.
The Dáil had been due to debate the terms of reference into a commission of investigation into alleged garda malpractice in the Cavan/Monaghan division, recommended by barrister Sean Guerin.
Mr Shatter is taking a court action to try and overturn Mr Guerin’s report.
Mr Barrett defended his decision to pull last week’s Dáil debate. He said he had received correspondence from Mr Shatter’s solicitors and took advice but was not influenced by the letter.
“I took a decision in the interest of the public so that an investigation can proceed immediately without the possibility of the Houses of the Oireachtas being hauled to the High Court and this matter being delayed and thousands of euro being spent on legal fees.”
Mr Barrett has said he was advised that, according to the Dáil’s standing orders or rules, the debate could “encroach on the functions of the courts”.
He also confirmed Mr Shatter’s solicitors had asked for a reference to him on the inquiry’s terms to be deleted.
“I certainly did not bow to any pressure from anybody and that’s where the unfairness is coming in.
“They wanted Alan Shatter’s name deleted from the terms of reference. That was a matter for the Government, not for me,” he told RTÉ radio.
Opposition parties stormed out of the Dáil this week after the debate was cancelled.
They claim Mr Shatter has managed to silence debate on an important issue with a gagging order.
But the row took another turn yesterday when Mr Barrett also claimed during the radio interview that the opposition was out to get him.
“Of course they are, it’s perfectly obvious,” he said.
This drew immediate criticism, with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin threatening his party would pull support for Mr Barrett in the Dáil unless he withdrew his comments.
Both Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin TDs last night said they had no confidence in Mr Barrett.
Sinn Féin’s Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said a motion of no confidence could be considered while Fianna Fáil said it would give Mr Barrett until next week to withdraw his remarks.
Government sources said the situation was being viewed as “quite serious”.
“Why didn’t he tell the party whips why he was cancelling the debate?” said one source.
However, Government figures last night gave their support to Mr Barrett.
Both Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton ndicated they were happy with Mr Barrett’s decision about why he cancelled the debate.
Spokesmen for Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton said they had confidence in Mr Barrett.
While government parties would oppose any motion brought against Mr Barrett, he could face difficulties continuing to chair the Dáil if all opposition parties united and backed such a proposal.
Former ceann comhairle Seamus Kirk said yesterday he believed that the Dáil’s standing orders needed to be reviewed and updated.
Latest calls for his head could be last
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