Galway West TD Catherine Connolly has become the first ever female Leas-Cheann Comhairle of the Dáil after a narrow victory today.
Independent TD Catherine Connolly won the position today in a vote of 77 to 74, the Irish Times reports, edging her sole opponent for the role Fine Gael Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd in a secret ballot today.
O’Dowd was running for the position with the backing of all three government parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party, meaning that some TDs broke party lines to help elect Connolly to the role.
Speaking in the Dáil this morning before the vote, Deputy Connolly said that she knows the “fundamental importance” of the role of Leas Cheann Comhairle, and that the role requires someone who realises the “essential aspect” it plays in the function of democracy in the 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.”
Deputies Connolly and O’Dowd were the only candidates standing for the position.
The results of the secret ballot are not expected to be officially announced until later this evening.