Ainmniú Iarrthóirí agus Leas-Cheann Comhairle a thoghadh - Selection of Candidate and Election of Leas-Cheann Comhairle

We now proceed to the selection of a candidate for the position of Leas-Cheann Comhairle by way of secret ballot. I call upon the Clerk of the Dáil, Mr. Peter Finnegan, to conduct the proceedings on our behalf.

Cléireach na Dála

I must inform the House that having received and examined nominations for the position of Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the following is the list of validly nominated candidates: Deputy Catherine Connolly and Deputy Fergus O'Dowd.

As there is more than one candidate, the candidate who will be proposed for election by the House will be selected by secret ballot. Before proceeding to the secret ballot, I will call on each candidate in the order in which I received their nominations to speak on their own behalf or, where the candidate has nominated another Member to speak on his or her behalf, I will call on that Member. Each speaker will have five minutes. I now call on Deputy Fergus O'Dowd.

Is mór an onóir dom a bheith san iomaíocht don phost an-tábhachtach seo, Leas-Cheann Comhairle Dháil Éireann. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go roghnófaí duine cosúil liom nó Teachta Connolly, duine a bhfuil an Ghaolainn aige nó aici agus atá in ann díospóireacht trí Ghaolainn a reáchtáil. Tugaim geallúint go n-oibreoidh mé go dian ar son gach duine sa Teach seo, is cuma cén páirtí ina bhfuil sé nó sí. Tá sé an-tábhachtach go mbeadh seans ag cúlbhinseoirí Dháil Éireann ach go háirithe a bheith páirteach go hiomlán sa Dáil. Déanfaidh mé mo dhícheall a bheith neamhspleách agus chun cothrom na Féinne a thabhairt do gach duine gach lá a bheinn sa Chathaoir.

It is a great honour for me to be nominated by my party, Fine Gael, and by Fianna Fáil agus an Comhaontas Glas to contest this election to the post of Leas-Cheann Comhairle. It is a great honour to be given that opportunity. I acknowledge everybody here, regardless of party or background. We all have the same mandate. We are all Teachtaí Dála. We are the voices of the people. We are democracy in action. This is where that must work best of all.

If I am elected as Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I promise to always be fair to everybody, to be impartial and to give due respect and recognition to everybody's point of view, regardless of what it is. My door will always be open to all Members to listen to any views they may and to take on board ideas and suggestions. As a politician, I believe in inclusion in our society and in our Oireachtas. I also believe in dialogue. Above all, if I am elected to this position, I will be businesslike and fair and will always strive to uphold the recognised rights of Members.

Speaking as someone with a lot of experience as a backbencher, I know how hard it is to become a Member of this House. I know what it is to fight elections. I also know, however, that we are here most of all to represent our constituents and their views and to fight for our communities and the people of our counties or districts. We are all committed and dedicated to that. I am aware of the sacrifices that Members and their families have made that have allowed them to vote here today. I recognise the importance of raising issues for one's constituency and of Topical Issue debates. It is important to be able to get messages out when raising issues with Ministers or when holding a Minister to account. Although I would not be responsible for committees in this role, I also understand how important it is to interrogate and to make sure that State bodies, public bodies and semi-State bodies are made properly and absolutely accountable.

If Members vote for me, I will guarantee them fairness and equality. I will be absolutely impartial. My record is good. I have acted as Mayor of Drogheda on three separate occasions. I have a lot of experience in public life as a town councillor, county councillor, Senator, Deputy, Minister of State, backbencher and, recently, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. Members will recall the inquiry we held into the issues regarding the Football Association of Ireland. I believe I showed myself to be fair and impartial to everybody. If Members vote for me, as I hope they will, I will absolutely guarantee them respect, fairness and impartiality. Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle as ucht an seans labhairt inniu.

Tá sé deacair seasamh anseo agus mé féin a chur os comhair an Tí mar iarrthóir sa toghchán seo. Tá sé deacair mé féin a mholadh. I ndáiríre, ní hé sin atá i gceist agam mar tá ról an Leas-Cheann Comhairle ró-thábhachtach do mholadh.

Táim ag seasamh anseo mar bhean láidir, le taithí agus le cáilíochtaí cuí, agus mar dhuine a bhí ag feidhmiú mar chathaoirleach ar feadh tréimhse ó 2016. Le linn na tréimhse sin, tá súil agam gur shaothraigh mé bhur meas mar chathaoirleach a bhí cóir agus cothrom. Táim ag seasamh anseo inniu ag lorg bhur dtacaíocht. Chuir sé gliondar ar mo chroí nuair a chuir mé m’ainm chun cinn agus fuair mé tacaíocht ó na páirtithe beaga uile, ó Shinn Féin agus ó ghrúpaí éagsúla neamhspleácha. Thug sé sin spreagadh dom leanúint ar aghaidh.

Tá sé tábhachtach go gcuirtear bean chun cinn don phost seo. Níl mé ag lorg bhur dtacaíocht nó bhur vótaí mar bhean, ach mar dhuine atá ábalta agus atá taithí aici. Chomh maith leis sin, tá deis ag Teachtaí inniu cinneadh a dhéanamh chun an stair a athrú. Le breis agus céad bliain anois, ní raibh bean riamh sa Chathaoir sin mar Cheann Comhairle nó mar Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Tá na fíricí liom agus ní mór dom iad a chur san áireamh. Tá sé tábhachtach go gcuirtear bean chun cinn mar, taobh amuigh den Rialtas agus ceannairí an Fhreasúra, is iad róil an Cheann Comhairle agus an Leas-Cheann Comhairle na róil ab fheiceálaí do mhuintir na tíre. Sin iad na daoine a fheiceann muintir na tíre ag stiúradh na Dála seo agus is gné lárnach den phróiseas daonlathach iad.

I stand here before my fellow colleagues today. It is not easy to stand here and praise myself, but that is not my purpose. I am standing on my record as a politician, locally from 1999, as Mayor of Galway, and of working in different employments, which has been a privilege and has added to my experience. I hope that since 2016 I have earned the respect of my colleagues as a fair and just chairperson. I realise the fundamental importance of the role of Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and that of the Ceann Comhairle, which has been honourably filled by an Teachta Seán Ó Fearghaíl. It is essential that we have somebody who realises the importance of the role and the essential aspect of that to the functioning of democracy in this Chamber.

In 101 years, there has never been a female in the Chair, either as Ceann Comhairle or as Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I point that out not by way of saying, please vote for me as a woman, but because, first, it is very important symbolically that we have had a list of male Chairs and males in the position of Leas-Cheann Comhairle and, uimhir a dó, that there has never been a woman, but uimhir a trí, it is the most visible aspect of our democracy outside of the Taoiseach, the Government and the leaders of the Opposition. The Ceann Comhairle and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle are the most visible aspect of our democracy. They are what the people of Ireland see, and it is important that we have gender equality in that role. It is important that we take that step today based on capability and experience. It is very important to me and to the people to whom I have spoken that the role would be filled by a Member of the Opposition, in the interests of balance and appearances, but also in the interests of reality, so that we would have a balance ensuring that democracy takes place in this Chamber and, I hope, in the Dáil as soon as possible.

I assure the House that in recent years I have gained a deep insight into the role of Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I have learned – it has been a humbling experience for me – to listen from that seat to the effort made by all Deputies to represent their constituencies. If elected, I promise to continue to be fair and just. I realise that Deputies are elected to speak for the people who elected them, and I hope there will be an alignment at some time in the future between doing one's best for the people and also for the common good. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir agus táim ag tnúth leis an toghchán.

Cléireach na Dála

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Connolly. That concludes the contributions from the candidates. As Members have already been provided with ballot papers, they should not leave the auditorium until after the votes have been cast. We will now proceed to the secret ballot.

I will now go through a number of instructions relating to the ballot. The ballot will be counted under the proportional representation, single-transferable vote system. Accordingly, Members may number the candidates in the order of their choice. If a Member inadvertently spoils his or her ballot paper, it should be presented to me. I will inspect the ballot paper and may decide to allow a replacement to be issued. In such cases, I will retain the original ballot paper and issue a certificate in order that another ballot paper can be issued by the officials at the doors.

Members will have ten minutes in which to mark their ballot papers in their seats. After the ten minutes have elapsed, the ushers will direct Members to cast their votes in the ballot boxes provided. Members may leave the auditorium when they have cast their vote. The poll will remain open until 10.15 a.m. When the poll has closed, the ballot boxes will be removed from the auditorium and kept in a secure location. They will be brought to the count centre in the foyer on level 4, where the count will take place today at 2 p.m. Members will now have ten minutes in which to mark their ballot papers at their seats.

Before Members are invited to cast their votes, I call on the Superintendent to confirm the ballot boxes to my left and right and the two ballot boxes located on level 4 are empty.

The Superintendent has confirmed that the ballot boxes are empty and have been locked. I now ask the parliamentary ushers to call Members to place their ballots in the ballot boxes. Members should remain in their seats until they are called and they should remember to keep 2 m apart from the Member in front of them.

Members proceeded to vote in a secret ballot in the order directed by the Clerk of the Dáil.

Cléireach na Dála

The poll for the election of Leas-Cheann Comhairle has now closed. The count shall take place at 2 p.m. on level 4.

Thank you, Mr. Finnegan. The House now stands suspended until 10.30 a.m.

Sitting suspended at 10.20 a.m. and resumed at 10.30 a.m.