A Galway Ceann Comhairle?

The revelations over Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue’s expenses have to be the most sickening and disgusting symbol of this Government’s wasteful attitude and lack of engagement with reality.

Or at least they are the most obvious examples since Martin Cullen’s e-voting disaster and Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s initial (and strenuous ) denials that an economic crisis was looming.

The revelation that Dep O’Donoghue flies home to Kerry at the end of each week and that his state car actually travels down to Kerry from Dublin so it can pick him up when he lands would be worthy of a Monty Python sketch were it not, in reality, quite nauseating.

On Tuesday evening, it was announced that Dep O’Donoghue will resign next week. Now the attention will turn to who his successor will be. Labour’s Brendan Howlin, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, was seen as the most likely to take over, but he has said he does not want the job. Ruarai Quinn (who was touted for the job in 2007 and who is at odds of 3/1 from Paddy Power ) could now become the Labour candidate.

However two Galway politicians are also in with a shout. One has already been tipped by Paddy Power. The other is a real dark horse whose name has not been mentioned much. The selection of either could have dramatic consequences for the Galway West constituency.

Paddy Power is offering 7/1 on the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív to become Ceann Comhairle. If he is selected it would allow Taoiseach Cowen to abolish an redistribute his ministry as per the McCarthy Report.

It would also mean one definite safe seat for Fianna Fáil in Galway West as the Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected. Thus the party could concentrate on putting in a Trojan effort to keep its very vulnerable second seat in the face of a Labour and Fine Gael onslaught.

There is only one problem. Making Minister Ó Cuív Ceann Comhairle would preclude him from active participation in politics. Therefore if Fianna Fáil appoints one of its own, it reduces its already slim majority as the Ceann Comhairle’s ability to vote is greatly restricted (a real problem come the Budget ). This further increases the risk of an early general election that will see it banished to the Opposition benches. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas.

If it turns out that neither Labour nor Fianna Fáil take the position, it will then fall to Fine Gael. As a result, FG’s Galway West TD Pádraic McCormack could become the Ceann Comhairle. Dep McCormack was nominated for the position in 2002 and for Leas-Cheann Comhairle in 2007. The post is generally given to a long serving TD.

This could be a boon for FG. Dep McCormack would be automatically returned at the next election, guaranteeing FG a seat in Galway West and allowing the party the space to concentrate on winning a second seat - something it feels it has a real chance of achieving at the next election.

When the idea of McCormack taking the job was put to a local Fianna Fáil member, he exclaimed: “Oh Christ no! Walsh or Conneely will be certainties to become TDs.” So the thought has crossed FF minds.

FG (and Labour ) will not be keen to do FF a favour and appoint one their own so that the Government does not have to reduce its own wafer thin majority. However the temptation for both parties is that whoever they might choose for the position (should they do so ) would automatically keep his seat and increase the chance of their taking a second in the new Ceann Comhairle’s constituency.

Expect a lot of horsetrading between now and when the new Ceann Comhairle is announced.

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