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Republic of Ireland

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The Ceann Comhairle (Irish pronunciation: [kʲaːn̪ˠ ˈkoːrʎə], "head of the council")[1] is the chairman[2] (or speaker)[2] of Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament) of Ireland. The person who holds the position is elected by members of the Dáil from among their number in the first session after each general election. The current Ceann Comhairle is Séamus Kirk, TD. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle (Deputy Chairman) is Brendan Howlin, TD.



The Ceann Comhairle is expected to observe strict impartiality. Despite this, a government usually tries to select one of its own for the position, if its numbers allow. In order to protect the neutrality of the chair, the Constitution of Ireland provides that an incumbent Ceann Comhairle does not seek re-election as a Teachta Dála (member of the Dáil) but rather is deemed automatically to have been re-elected by their constituency at a general election, unless they are retiring.[3] As a consequence, the constituency that an incumbent Ceann Comhairle theoretically represents returns one less TD in a general election than its usual entitlement. The Ceann Comhairle does not vote except in the event of a tie. In this event they generally vote in accordance with the parliamentary conventions relating to the Speaker of the British House of Commons. The Ceann Comhairle is the sole judge of order in the house and has a number of special functions. Specifically, the Ceann Comhairle:

  • Calls on members to speak. All speeches must be addressed to the Ceann Comhairle.
  • Puts such questions to the house and supervises and declares the results of divisions.
  • Has authority to suppress disorder. To ensure obedience to his rulings the Ceann Comhairle may order members to withdraw from the Dáil or suspend an individual from the House for a period. In the case of great disorder the Ceann Comhairle can suspend or adjourn the house.
  • Rings a bell[4] when deputies are out of order.


The position of Ceann Comhairle is as old as the Dáil, which was first established in 1919.[5] The first Ceann Comhairle was Cathal Brugha, who served for only one day, presiding over the house's symbolic first meeting, before leaving the post to become Príomh Aire (prime minister). The office was continued under the 1922–1937 Irish Free State, the constitution of which referred to the office-holder as the "Chairman of Dáil Éireann". The practice of automatically re-electing the Ceann Comhairle in a general election was introduced by a constitutional amendment in 1927. For a brief period from 1936 to 1937, following the abolition of the office of Governor-General, certain of the Governor-General's functions were transferred to the Ceann Comhairle, who was assigned the role of signing bills into law and convening and dissolving the Dáil. The position of Ceann Comhairle was retained when the Constitution of Ireland was adopted in 1937, as was the practice of automatic re-election.

List of office-holders

No. Name Entered Office Left Office Party
1. Cathal Brugha 21 January 1919 22 January 1919 Sinn Féin
2. Count Plunkett[6] 22 January 1919 22 January 1919 Sinn Féin
3. Seán T. O'Kelly 22 January 1919 16 August 1921 Sinn Féin
4. Eoin MacNeill 16 August 1921 9 September 1922 (Pro-Treaty) Sinn Féin
5. Michael Hayes 8 September 1922 9 March 1932 Cumann na nGaedhael
6. Frank Fahy 9 March 1932 13 June 1951 Fianna Fáil
7. Patrick Hogan 13 June 1951 14 November 1967 Labour Party
8. Cormac Breslin 14 November 1967 14 March 1973 Fianna Fáil
9. Seán Treacy (1st time) 14 March 1973 5 July 1977 Labour Party
10. Joseph Brennan 5 July 1977 13 July 1980 Fianna Fáil
11. Pádraig Faulkner 15 October 1980 30 June 1981 Fianna Fáil
12. John O'Connell 30 June 1981 14 December 1982 Independent
13. Tom Fitzpatrick 14 December 1982 10 March 1987 Fine Gael
Seán Treacy (2nd time) 10 March 1987 26 June 1997 Independent
14. Séamus Pattison 26 June 1997 6 June 2002 Labour Party
15. Rory O'Hanlon 6 June 2002 14 June 2007 Fianna Fáil
16. John O'Donoghue 14 June 2007 13 October 2009 Fianna Fáil
17. Séamus Kirk 13 October 2009 Incumbent Fianna Fáil


  1. ^ The plural form is Cinn Chomhairle.
  2. ^ a b "Role of the Ceann Comhairle". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 12 June 2008.  
  3. ^ Article 16.6 of the constitution requires that "provision shall be made by law" such that the Ceann Comhairle "be deemed without any actual election to be elected a member of Dáil Éireann". The current law making such provision is the Electoral Act, 1992 [1].
  4. ^ The bell is a half size reproduction of the ancient bell of Lough Lene Castle, presented to Dáil Éireann in 1931 by the widow of a former member of the House, Bryan Cooper. The original bell was found at Castle Island, Lough Lene, Castlepollard, County Westmeath in 1881 and is now in the National Museum.
  5. ^ "An Ceann Comhairle – History". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 18 October 2009.  
  6. ^ Count Plunkett briefly chaired the Dáil on 22 January 1919. Seán T. O'Kelly was elected Ceann Comhairle later in the same day.

See also

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