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'If I did it, I'd be fired' - TDs in hot water for vote rebellion

  • Greens sanction two party members

  • Dail suspended as massive row erupts

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Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the Government

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the Government

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the Government

Fianna Fail and Fine Gael ministers have warned that the kind of rebellion that saw two Green Party TDs fail to vote with the Government in the Dail must not happen again.

The Green Party has removed Dail speaking rights for junior minister and Dublin Fingal TD Joe O'Brien, and Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan for two months due to their failure to back legislation that extended the emergency rent freeze and eviction ban only for those affected by Covid-19.

The punishment is seen as little more than a slap on the wrist as the Dail will not be sitting for the next six weeks.

The situation that saw Mr O'Brien abstain from Thursday night's Dail vote - and Ms Hourigan actually vote against the government Bill - caused consternation among the Green Party's coalition partners.

Weakens

Green leader Eamon Ryan last night sought to draw a line under the incident saying: "You cannot vote against government if you're in government. You cannot abstain if you're in government. It weakens our strength."

He said he is confident that when the Dail returns "we'll work well as a team".

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheal Martin said that internal disciplinary matters were for political parties themselves.

"He [Mr Ryan] has taken steps. The parties are different and we want to keep the focus on the policy agenda," he said.

However, sources in both larger parties warned that there must not be a repeat of a minister abstaining from a vote on Government legislation.

One Fine Gael minister said: "If I did it I'd be fired within 10 minutes" and warned another occurrence could make the government "untenable".

A Fianna Fail minister said that a junior minister failing to support the Government "can't happen again". The source said there would have been elements of other legislation passed this week that Fianna Fail did not want "but we voted for it".

Another Fianna Fail minister said it was better to know now that the support of the two Green Party TDs was shaky rather than on Budget night.

The source said the coalition will have to ensure every other TD that supports the Government will be present for every future vote.

Another Fine Gael minister said that backbenchers from their party and Fianna Fail may question why they have to support contentious legislation if it is OK for ministers to abstain.

"You wouldn't like to see it again," they added.

Mr O'Brien explained on Twitter why he abstained.

He said the issue of homelessness is "extremely important" to him and he was not convinced the legislation "was the best we could have done". He said he knew his vote was not going to defeat the Bill.

Ms Hourigan resigned as Green Party whip before she voted against the Government.

She told RTE's Today With Sarah McInerney she fully expected to be sanctioned.

She said there was not enough time to scrutinise the legislation and agreed with amendments that had been tabled by the Opposition.

Asked if the sanctions against her will prevent her voting against the Government again, she said: "I hope that this just simply won't arise again."

The controversial votes happened before the Dail descended into chaos with a massive row over a separate issue.

The Government parties had moved to change Dail speaking arrangements so their backbench TDs can get better speaking slots more frequently.

The bitter row that ensued forced a 10-minute suspension by new Leas-Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly after Rise TD Paul Murphy repeatedly refused to resume his seat.

He said attempts to reformulate speaking slots were an effort to marginalise left-wing groups.

During the same debate Tanaiste Leo Varadkar extraordinarily attacked smaller parties, saying he was "embarrassed" to share the Chamber with them.