herald

Monday 5 December 2016

'Get used to losing loads of votes', warns Chief Whip Regina

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty. Photo: Damien Eagers
Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty. Photo: Damien Eagers

The Government had better get used to suffering "loads" of defeats in the Dail in the coming months and is likely to lose another vote as early as this week, newly-appointed Chief Whip Regina Doherty has warned.

She sounded the alarm after Independent Clare deputy Dr Michael Harty caused panic within Fine Gael ranks by saying he was not part of the Government and will approach all votes - including motions of no-confidence in the Taoiseach or his ministers - on a strictly case-by-case basis.

In an interview with the Herald, Meath East TD Ms Doherty warned colleagues that they must get used to losing votes over bills tabled by the Opposition.

"It's going to happen loads of times," she said.

The weakness of the new administration was exposed when Fianna Fail easily secured the passing of a bill on mortgages through the Dail.

Ms Doherty's warning comes as concern mounts within Fine Gael over the strength of the support being offered by Independent TDs.

Dr Harty told the Sunday Independent that he backed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach because he believed the country did not want to go back to the polls, but insisted that he never committed to full-time support of the Government.

However, the newly-elected TD flip-flopped on the issue yesterday, saying he will now back Mr Kenny on motions of no-confidence and budget votes.

"When I said on a case-by-case basis, I meant votes in the Dail, not votes which could bring down the Government," he said.

Dr Harty also insisted he is a "wholly Independent TD", despite pledging to back Mr Kenny.

When the contradiction in his statement was pointed out, he said: "Obviously, if the vote [of confidence] is cataclysmic, unforeseen events it will depend on the issue at hand."

The GP also said he never sought a position in government from Fine Gael and insisted he is not "throwing his toys out of the pram" because he was not appointed as a junior minister.

Reward

Fine Gael backbenchers privately claimed during the week that Dr Harty sought a position as a reward for his support, a claim he denied.

One minister said yesterday that Dr Harty's remarks about not being part of the Government show the current administration is effectively on a knife-edge.

Meanwhile, a senior Fianna Fail figure said the Government was being "propped up by Michael Lowry and could be pulled down by us".

He reiterated remarks made by party leader Micheal Martin that the plug could be pulled over "policy surprises".

However, Ms Doherty said it was the responsibility of Fine Gael to ensure there are no such surprises.

She also said the Government is preparing to lose another vote this week, when Sinn Fein puts forward a private member's bill on water.

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