Ceann Comhairle Holds Out For 'Handshake'

The Ceann Comhairle has finally succumbed to pressure over his expenses and resigned, but now faces new criticism over his timing of the move.

John O'Donoghue, the Daíl Chariman, has faced a barrage of criticism and pressure in recent weeks over the expenses he claimed while the was Minister for Sport and Tourism with Fianna Fail.

Mr O'Donoghue finally offered his resignation today, stating he would go next week; However, a new volley of condemnation has been launched as he is now accused of holding out for a "golden handshake of a Dáil seat" which he could get by waiting until a Green Party decision on Saturday about whether or not to pull out of Government.

Fine Gael's Alan Shatter said Mr O’Donoghue should resign immediately to restore credibility to the office of Ceann Comhairle. He added that the only reason Mr O’Donoghue delayed his departure until next Tuesday was to await the Green Party decision.

"If they [the Green Party] walk out of Government, by staying on until next Tuesday John O'Donoghue gets the golden handshake of a Dáil seat in the next election - that’s the only consideration here," Mr Shatter said.

If the Green Party decide to quit the current Government coalition, an automatic election will be called and as Ceann Comhairle, Mr O'Donoghue would automatically retain his Dáil seat despite resiging his position as Ceann Comhairle.

Fine Gael's leader Enda Kenny also today issued a statement of criticism: "I had sought to avoid the politicisation of the office of Ceann Comhairle by proposing that John O'Donoghue attend the Oireachtas Commission meeting tomorrow. That would have provided him with an opportunity to account for his expenses and for expenditure incurred on his behalf.

"In the present circumstances, this is no longer realistic. Therefore, in the interests of the independence of the office of Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue should resign forthwith."

However, despite the embarresing expenses revelations and recent berating from the opposition parties, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said Mr O'Donoghue had acted in the interests of Dáil Éireann.

Mr Cowen said: "He has been a most effective and fair Ceann Comhairle who has acted with commitment and integrity to ensure that the members of Dáil Éireann could debate freely and fairly the issues of the day."


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