New government's attention turns appointment of committee chairpersons

Although the fallout from cabinet and junior ministerial appointments is still ongoing, attention has now turned to the appointment of committee chairpersons.
New government's attention turns appointment of committee chairpersons
Joe McHugh, who was offered his pick of a number of junior ministries but turned them down after stating his intent to work on the Committee on European Union Affairs.

Although the fallout from cabinet and junior ministerial appointments is still ongoing, attention has now turned to the appointment of committee chairpersons.

TDs and Senators who are appointed to chair Oireachtas committees receive an additional allowance of €9,500, and the role is seen by some in Leinster House as a consolation prize for those who have gone wanting from cabinet table.

Chairpersons of committees are appointed by Dáil Éireann using the d’Hondt system — a formula that results in chairs proportionately reflecting each party’s representation in the Dáil.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, setting up committees will work on a three-phased approach to the over the coming weeks and won't see the full committee roster implemented until December.

With the Government now formed, Sinn Féin will be allowed the first and fifth choice of chair.

The first to return in the coming weeks will be the most prestigious: the Public Accounts Committee and Budgetary Oversight Committee. It is expected that Sinn Féin will choose PAC, with TD David Cullinane rumoured to take the position of chairman. Party leader, Mary Lou McDonald, said on Thursday that she had "someone in mind" but declined to say who.

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart is understood to have expressed an interest in chairing the Budgetary Oversight Committee. He has been deputy chair of the committee for four years, while Colm Brophy who had previously held the role is now a junior minister.

One overlooked former Minister who is certain to get a committee chair role is Fine Gael Donegal TD Joe McHugh, who was offered his pick of a number of junior ministries but turned them down after stating his intent to work on the Committee on European Union Affairs.

For the Greens, the obvious answer to most spectators in Leinster House is Neasa Hourigan.

Hourigan fell out of favour with leader Eamon Ryan after she rejected the Programme for Government, campaigning for a vote against the deal. Many believed her selection to a junior ministry would be imminent in order to repair the internal damage within the party, but she was not selected, despite being the party's spokesperson on finance.

Hourigan is the obvious candidate to head up a committee, a capable worker with a passion for her constituency. However, Mr Ryan's choices so far have proved unpredictable.

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