Independent TD for Galway West Catherine Connolly has said she is in shock after her election as the new Leas-Cheann Comhairle or Deputy Chair of the Dáil.

She beat Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd by 77 votes to 74 in the secret ballot.

It is being seen as a surprise result in Leinster House, considering the coalition parties have 84 votes between them.

Ms Connolly is the first woman to be elected to the position of Ceann Comhairle or Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

She will deputise in the absence of the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and carry out the same duties.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle position comes with an additional salary allowance of €38,787 on top of a basic TD's salary of €96,189.

Speaking to RTÉ News, Ms Connolly said she knew the feedback from different opposition parties was good, but that she did not think she had enough votes.

The new Leas-Ceann Comhairle said it was historical to have a woman in the position after 101 years.

She said it was important for society and that the role she takes will be instrumental in the gender balance journey.

Ms Connolly said when the Government decided to put just one male candidate up for the position, the Independent group of TDs of which she is a member decided they "had to respond" and agreed the candidate they put up would be her.

She said the result was a shock and "we felt Government had the numbers but we really didn't know", but that she did not want to expend her energy on what went wrong with the Coalition parties' votes.

Asked how it will change her role, she said she will be a lot busier.

Reacting to the news, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he was disappointed Mr O'Dowd was not elected and he wished Ms Connolly well in her role.

The new Chairman of the Fine Gael party said nothing went wrong with the secret vote.

Richard Bruton said it was a free vote and that it is a position the members of the Dáil vote for themselves.  

Speaking to RTÉ's Your Politics podcast, he said the system gives the successful person a good mandate.   

Mr Bruton said he wished Ms Connolly well, describing her as "scrupulously fair", but he said he was very disappointed for his party colleague.

He said Mr O'Dowd has been a 'real warrior' who has been very committed to member's interests.

Earlier in the day, when the votes were being counted, Mr O'Dowd tweeted to say "whatever the outcome I will continue to work as I always have with commitment and energy".

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