TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY has survived a vote of confidence in the government in the Dáil this evening.
With the support of the Independent Alliance, and Fianna Fáil abstaining, Fine Gael passed the motion with a vote of 57 to 52 in another fiery debate in the Dáil.
Setting out his stall, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that “the last thing this country needs is a general election” and defended his record as Taoiseach.
Both Kenny and Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin accused Sinn Féin of opportunism, and drew comparisons with their actions in Northern Ireland to dissolve the Assembly.
Martin also accused Fine Gael ministers of “arrogance” and of manoeuvring while preparing for a post-Kenny party.
He was referring to reports that Ministers Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney had told party colleagues to prepare for an early election, and that a parliamentary party meeting had been called to discuss the issues.
Both are seen as potential future successors to Enda Kenny.
Martin said: “We do want a change of government, but we also believe that this Dáil has not yet fulfilled its obligations to the people who we are elected to serve.”
Gerry Adams said that we have a government “which has undermined confidence in itself”. He added: “Everything that’s gone wrong is your own fault” and that “citizens do not have confidence in this government.”
Minister Paschal Donohoe accused Sinn Féin of “debasing” the Dáil by bringing forward a motion of no confidence and said that they “feared progress”.
Labour leader Brendan Howlin criticised the government’s record in a number of areas, but especially in the differing accounts of Kenny on how much he knew and the contents of his meeting with Katherine Zappone.
He said: “Taoiseach, as I said at the outset – I have had no confidence in your Government since you formed it.
After the events of the last week, I cannot in any conscience support you now.
Howlin also made a pointed address to the Taoiseach’s potential successors.
He said: There are many in this chamber, on your side of the house as well as mine, who have waited for your time as Taoiseach to come to an end.
“Some of them share that front row with you.”
AAA-PBP TD Paul Murphy said he had always had “zero confidence” in the government but said he had this opinion “crystalised this week”.
He said that Taoiseach tried to take people “for fools” in regards to his comments this week.
His colleague Ruth Coppinger claimed Kenny was dealing in “alternate facts”. Richard Boyd Barrett got quite heated, saying that there was no doubt that the smear campaign was orchestrated, and illustrative of a “rotten culture” in the State.
Boyd Barrett said that Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan should be removed from her position immediately, and accused the government of failing on a number of important issues.
Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly said she didn’t really care about the motion, but urged the government to get this Tribunal set up quickly and “to get it right”. Mick Wallace echoed this sentiment, and called for the Tribunal to include other whistleblowers.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said that he had no confidence in the government, and said that the House needed to restore the public’s confidence.
Both Wallace and Ryan expressed reservations about the use of a Tribunal, given the time it would take and said it was essential to nail down the terms of reference quickly.
Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty accused the government of not acting on garda whistleblowers’ claims because of the smear campaigns conducted against them.
As a whole, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs took their opportunities to sharply criticise Sinn Féin for bringing the motion in the first place, while other opposition members used the opportunity to criticise the government on a range of issues such as Irish Water, housing and the health service.
Things threatened to get out of hand several times, as Fine Gael Ministers rounded on Sinn Féin for their attitude to whistleblowers in the past.
After a debate which lasted almost four hours, the government eventually won out in the final vote.