Ó Fearghaíl re-election puts SF and FF neck and neck

Seán Ó Fearghaíl as Ceann Comhairle will leave Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin neck and neck with voting TD numbers in the race to lead the next government.

Ó Fearghaíl re-election puts SF and FF neck and neck

Seán Ó Fearghaíl as Ceann Comhairle will leave Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin neck and neck with voting TD numbers in the race to lead the next government.

The 33rd Dáil will meet for the first time today. But after the shock election and amid a fractured political landscape, TDs and parties will be unable to nominate a taoiseach.

Instead, it is expected a Ceann Comhairle will be elected and the Dáil will adjourn so government formation talks can continue.

While there is a two-horse race for the role of Ceann Comhairle or Dáil chairman between Mr Ó Fearghaíl and Independent TD Denis Naughten, the indication last night was that the former would win.

Fianna Fáil TDs at a party meeting were asked to back their colleague, Mr Ó Fearghaíl, in the vote for the role. Sinn Féin, which would like to see Fianna Fáil’s Dáil voting tally reduced, is expected to support him, as are other Independents who praised the outgoing chairman.

The vote for the €176,000-a-year job will be done by secret ballot. Fine Gael has not taken a position on it.

Mr Naughten, a former minister who resigned from the outgoing government over a broadband scandal, asked colleagues in Leinster House by letter for their support, saying he was running because of “the public frustration with accountability”.

If Mr Ó Fearghaíl is elected, this will leave Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin with the same number of voting TDs at 37 each.

Parties will then nominate their leaders for taoiseach — despite there being no consensus on a coalition option or any one group that commands the support of the 80 votes needed to lead a government.

Fianna Fáil will nominate Micheál Martin for the role, Sinn Féin will back Mary Lou McDonald, Fine Gael will support Leo Varadkar, while the Green Party will put forward Eamon Ryan.

With no result, Mr Varadkar is then expected to go to Áras an Uachtaráin to tender his resignation.

However, he will stay on in a caretaker role as Taoiseach while efforts continue to form a new government.

After the new Dáil has then met in Leinster House and groups have spoken, it is expected to be adjourned as parties continue talks.

Mr Martin last night said he was appointing a six-person team to head up Fianna Fáil’s government-formation talks, saying it would “not be an easy process”.

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