The leader of the Labour Party, Pat Rabbitte, has threatened the Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil with a motion of no confidence.

After an attempt to raise the winter fuel allowance was ruled out of order, Pat Rabbitte said if the Ceann Comhairle continued in this way into next year, he would be inviting a motion of no confidence.

Mr Rabbitte said that while he may get the votes of his own party, he would have lost the confidence of the Opposition side of the House.

He claimed there had never been a situation in his time in the Dáil where a party leader had not been allowed to raise such issues on the Order of Business.

However, the Ceann Comhairle, Dr Rory O'Hanlon, insisted the matter was not in order.

Under the rules covering the Order of Business, deputies are only allowed to ask questions about promised legislation - and every day they try to push the boundaries.

Mr Rabbitte has clashed with the Ceann Comhairle before, accusing him of being partisan and overly restrictive in his rulings.

A series of Labour deputies later attacked Dr O'Hanlon's ruling, with the party's chief whip, Emmet Stagg, claiming it was not the Dáil's Standing Orders that were wrong, but the Ceann Comhairle's ‘inflexible interpretation’ of them.

Deputy Rabbitte had asked whether there would be an increase in the cold weather allowance, which had not been increased in three years, and was only worth €9.

The Tánaiste finally replied that there would be a social welfare bill in the New Year to implement Budget measures, and that the Government would be ‘sensitive to the needs of elderly people’.

Later, when the Ceann Comhairle warned Fine Gael deputy Bernard Allen against raising Cork cancer services again, Deputy Allen asked if he was threatening him, and said he would support Mr Rabbitte if he put down a motion of no confidence.