Irvine H. Sprague, an aide to House Speaker Thomas "Tip" O'Neil will be nominated by the White House to be chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., government sources said yesterday.

Sprague, 57, who is staff director of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, will fill the $52,500 post that has been vacant since Aug. 15 when George LeMaistre retired.

Sprague said yesterday he "could niether confirm nor deny" the report.

Sprague is the third O'Neill colleague named to a major government post in recent months. Observers see this as an effort by the White House to improve strained relations with the House speaker.

The Sprague nomination is also a benchmark of sorts. It is the first time in recent history that Sen. John Sparkman (D-Ala.), who retired at the end of the 95th Congress has not played a role in filling a high FDIC post.

LeMaistre, an Alabaman, was a Sparkman choice, and last year, when Lewis Odom Jr. a former legislative aide to Sparkman when he was chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, was named deputy to LeMaistre

Marusi is chairman of the National Minority Purchasing Council, a corporation funded by the Commerce Department and private industry which has 110 due-paying corporate, membe was viewed as Sparkman's choice to become chairman.

But the White House reportedly worried that ODdom might have difficulty being confirmed because of some legal troubles he had back in Montgomery, Ala.

Sprague, who was a newspaper reporter on the Stockton (Calif.), Record for with 1990s and 1950 17 years already has worked for the FDIC as a director. He was appointed to the post in 1968 by President Johnson. Before Sprague worked on Johnson's White House staff specializing in congressional relations. And in the early 1960s, he was a special assistant to then Sen. Johnson.

Sprague left the FDIC in 1973 to become assistant to Rep. John McFall (D-Calif.). He then moved on to the Steering and Policy Committee, which is chaired by Rep. O'Neill. The committee manages legislation that is supported by the Democratic leadership.