Ceann Comhairle

The Ceann Comhairle (Irish: [ca:n̪ˠ ˈkoːɾʲlʲə] (listen) "Head of [the] Council"; plural usually Cinn Comhairle [ki:n̠ʲ ˈkoːɾʲlʲə]) is the chairperson[1] (or speaker)[1] 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 Ceann Comhairle of the 32nd Dáil is Fianna Fáil TD Seán Ó Fearghaíl, elected on 10 March 2016.

Ceann Comhairle of
Dáil Éireann
Seán Ó Fearghaíl

since 10 March 2016
AppointerElected by the members of Dáil Éireann at start of a new term after a general election.
Term lengthNo term limits are imposed on the office.
Inaugural holderCathal Brugha
Formation21 January 1919
WebsiteOfficial website


The Ceann Comhairle is expected to observe strict impartiality. Despite this, a government usually tries to select a member of its own political party for the position, if it has enough deputies to allow that choice. 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 (Deputy to the Dáil), but rather is deemed automatically to have been re-elected by their constituency at that general election, unless they are retiring.[fn 1] As a consequence, the constituency that an incumbent Ceann Comhairle represents elects one fewer TD in a general election than its usual entitlement, but still has the same number of TDs.[3]

The Ceann Comhairle does not take part in debates, nor do they 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, which tend to amount to voting against motions. The Ceann Comhairle formally opens each day's sitting by reading the official prayer. 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 when deputies are out of order. The bell is a half-sized reproduction of the ancient bell of Lough Lene Castle found at Castle Island, Lough Lene, Castlepollard, County Westmeath in 1881 and now in the National Museum. The reproduction was presented in 1931 by the widow of Bryan Cooper, a former TD.

The Ceann Comhairle is an ex officio member of the Presidential Commission, the Council of State, and the Commission for Public Service Appointments.[5]

Since the 1937 Constitution, the Ceann Comhairle has been an ex officio member of the Council of State, beginning with Frank Fahy. The earlier presiding officers never served on the Council of State: i.e. those of the Revolutionary Dáil (1919–22: Cathal Brugha, George Noble Plunkett, Eoin MacNeill, and Michael Hayes) and the Free State Dáil (1922–36: Hayes again, before Fahy).


The position of Ceann Comhairle is as old as the Dáil, which was first established as a breakaway revolutionary parliament in 1919.[6] 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 1922–37 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.[3][7] For a brief period following the 11 December 1936 abolition of the office of Governor-General, the Ceann Comhairle was assigned some of the former office's ceremonial functions, including signing bills into law and convening and dissolving the Dáil. These powers were transferred to the new office of President of Ireland when a new Constitution came into force on 29 December 1937.

The new Constitution retained the position of Ceann Comhairle and the practice of automatic re-election. The first Ceann Comhairle since 1919 to resign the office was John O'Donoghue in 2009, after an expenses scandal. As an ordinary TD he was no longer entitled to be returned automatically at the next general election in 2011, in which he lost his seat. One other Ceann Comhairle died in office, Joseph Brennan in 1980.

The Ceann Comhairle was first elected by secret ballot in 2016.[8]

List of office-holders

Ceann Comhairle

This list includes the constituencies and political affiliation of each Ceann Comhairle as well as the number of their Dáil Éireann and time they spent in the position.

No. Name
Portrait Term of office Party Constituency Dáil
1. Cathal Brugha
21 January 1919 22 January 1919 Sinn Féin Waterford County 1st
2. George Noble Plunkett
22 January 1919 22 January 1919 Sinn Féin Roscommon North
3. Seán T. O'Kelly
22 January 1919 16 August 1921 Sinn Féin Dublin College Green
4. Eoin MacNeill
16 August 1921 9 September 1922 (Pro-Treaty) Sinn Féin Londonderry
National University of Ireland[fn 2]
5. Michael Hayes
9 September 1922 9 March 1932 Cumann na nGaedheal National University of Ireland[fn 3] 3rd
6. Frank Fahy
9 March 1932 13 June 1951 Fianna Fáil Galway 7th
Galway East 9th
Galway South 12th
7. Patrick Hogan
13 June 1951 14 November 1967 Labour Party Clare 13th
8. Cormac Breslin
14 November 1967 14 March 1973 Fianna Fáil Donegal South-West
Donegal–Leitrim 19th
9. Seán Treacy
14 March 1973 5 July 1977 Labour Party Tipperary South 20th
10. Joseph Brennan
5 July 1977 13 July 1980 Fianna Fáil Donegal 21st
11. Pádraig Faulkner
15 October 1980[fn 4] 30 June 1981 Fianna Fáil Louth
12. John O'Connell
30 June 1981 14 December 1982 Independent Dublin South-Central 22nd
13. Tom Fitzpatrick
14 December 1982 10 March 1987 Fine Gael Cavan–Monaghan 24th
(9) Seán Treacy
10 March 1987 26 June 1997 Independent Tipperary South 25th
14. Séamus Pattison
26 June 1997 6 June 2002 Labour Party Carlow–Kilkenny 28th
15. Rory O'Hanlon
(born 1934)
6 June 2002 14 June 2007 Fianna Fáil Cavan–Monaghan 29th
16. John O'Donoghue
(born 1956)
14 June 2007 13 October 2009 Fianna Fáil Kerry South 30th
17. Séamus Kirk
(born 1945)
13 October 2009 9 March 2011 Fianna Fáil Louth
18. Seán Barrett
(born 1944)
9 March 2011 10 March 2016 Fine Gael Dún Laoghaire 31st
19. Seán Ó Fearghaíl
(born 1960)
10 March 2016 Incumbent Fianna Fáil Kildare South 32nd

Leas-Cheann Comhairle

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle holds office as the Deputy Chairman of Dáil Éireann under Article 15.9.1 of the Constitution. In the absence of the Ceann Comhairle, the Leas-Cheann Comhairle deputises and performs the duties and exercises the authority of the Ceann Comhairle in Dáil proceedings.[12] The current Leas-Cheann Comhairle is Fianna Fáil TD Pat "the Cope" Gallagher, since 6 July 2016. By tradition, the position is reserved for the Opposition, but the appointment is made by the Taoiseach of the day.[13] The role carries the same pay and the same status as that of a Minister of State.

No. Name
Portrait Term of office Party Constituency Dáil
1. John J. O'Kelly
1 April 1919 26 August 1921 Sinn Féin Louth 1st
2. Brian O'Higgins
26 August 1921 28 February 1922 Sinn Féin Clare 2nd
3. Pádraic Ó Máille
6 December 1922 23 May 1927 Cumann na nGaedheal Galway 3rd
4. James Dolan
1 July 1927 25 August 1927 Cumann na nGaedheal Leitrim–Sligo 5th
5. Patrick Hogan
27 October 1927 8 March 1928 Labour Party Clare 6th
6. Daniel Morrissey
2 May 1928 29 January 1932 Cumann na nGaedheal Tipperary
(5) Patrick Hogan
15 March 1932 27 May 1938 Labour Party Clare 7th
7. Fionán Lynch
5 July 1938 12 May 1939 Fine Gael Kerry South 10th
8. Eamonn O'Neill
31 May 1939 31 May 1943 Fine Gael Cork West
9. Daniel McMenamin
20 October 1943 12 January 1948 Fine Gael Donegal East 11th
(5) Patrick Hogan
25 February 1948 7 May 1951 Labour Party Clare 13th
10. Cormac Breslin
4 July 1951 14 November 1967 Fianna Fáil Donegal West
Donegal South-West
11. Denis Jones
15 November 1967 5 July 1977 Fine Gael Limerick West
12. Seán Browne
6 July 1977 30 June 1981 Fianna Fáil Wexford 21st
13. Jim Tunney
7 July 1981 14 December 1982 Fianna Fáil Dublin North-West 22nd
14. John Ryan
15 December 1982 10 March 1987 Labour Party Tipperary North 24th
(13) Jim Tunney
24 March 1987 4 January 1993 Fianna Fáil Dublin North-West 25th
15. Joe Jacob
(born 1939)
13 February 1993 26 June 1997 Fianna Fáil Wicklow 27th
16. Rory O'Hanlon
(born 1934)
9 July 1997 6 June 2002 Fianna Fáil Cavan–Monaghan 28th
17. Séamus Pattison
8 June 2002 14 June 2007 Labour Party Carlow–Kilkenny 29th
18. Brendan Howlin
(born 1956)
26 June 2007 9 March 2011 Labour Party Wexford 30th
19. Michael Kitt
(born 1950)
31 March 2011 10 March 2016 Fianna Fáil Galway East 31st
20. Pat "the Cope" Gallagher
(born 1948)
6 July 2016 Incumbent Fianna Fáil Donegal 32nd

See also


  1. 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".[2] The current law that makes such provision is Section 36 of the Electoral Act 1992.[3][4]
  2. MacNeill was returned for seats in both the House of Commons of Northern Ireland and House of Commons of Southern Ireland.
  3. Hayes was also returned for Dublin South in 1922 but chose to vacate that seat.
  4. Elected temporarily on 15 October 1980[10] and permanently the following day.[11]



  • O'Connor, Tom; O'Halloran, Anthony (2008). "8: An Ceann Comhairle". Politics in a Changing Ireland 1960–2007: A Tribute to Seamus Pattison. Institute of Public Administration. pp. 121–138. ISBN 9781904541691. Retrieved 4 December 2015.


  1. "Ceann Comhairle". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  2. "CONSTITUTION OF IRELAND". Irish Statute Book. pp. Article 16.6. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  3. O'Connor and O'Halloran 2008 pp.124–7
  4. "Electoral Act, 1992, Section 36". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  5. "Members of the Commission". Commission for Public Service Appointments. Archived from the original on 28 January 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  6. "Ceann Comhairle – History". Houses of the Oireachtas. Archived from the original on 21 August 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  7. "Constitution (Amendment No. 2) Act, 1927". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 4 December 2019.
  8. Race to be Ceann Comhairle heats up as secret ballot to be used for the first time in election
  9. George Noble Plunkett briefly chaired the Dáil on 22 January 1919. Seán T. O'Kelly was elected Ceann Comhairle later in the same day.
  10. "Office of Ceann Comhairle". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 15 October 1980. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  11. "Election of Ceann Comhairle". Dáil Éireann debates. Oireachtas. 16 October 1980. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
  12. "Role of the Leas-Cheann Comhairle". Houses of the Oireachtas. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2012.
  13. McGee, Harry (1 April 2011). "FF TD selected by Taoiseach to serve as Leas-Cheann Comhairle". The Irish Times.

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