The Seanad chamber after the government was defeated today
THE GOVERNMENT HAS lost another vote in the Seanad on the issue of upward only rent reviews after the opposition called a walk through vote this afternoon.
Applause broke out in the chamber as the opposition parties, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, and independent senators, including the Taoiseach’s nominees, ensured the passage of a bill proposed by independent senator Feargal Quinn to ban upward only rent reviews.
The first electronic vote on the committee and final stages of the legislation was passed by 23 votes to 22 thanks to the casting vote of the Seanad cathaoirleach Paddy Burke.
But after the opposition called a walk through vote, Reform Alliance senator Paul Bradford arrived in the chamber to help the attempt to pass the bill by 23 votes to 22.
The same thing happened on a different stage of the same legislation last October when the government was defeated largely due to the absence of Labour senators John Kelly, John Whelan, Denis Landy and Jimmy Harte (who is currently seriously ill in hospital).
The same senators were absent again today as were two European election candidates, Labour’s Lorraine Higgins, who is running in Midlands North West, and Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune, who is running in Ireland South.
In some cases the government senators may have been paired-off with opposition senators who were also absent. For example, Rónán Mullen, who is running as an independent in the European elections, was also absent today.
In addition, Harte’s absence in recent months has seen him paired with Fianna Fáil’s Labhrás Ó Murchú in votes.
Quinn’s bill now goes to the Dáil where the government’s huge majority is likely to ensure it does not progress much further. The coalition has previously stated that constitutional issues prevent it from addressing the issue of upward only rent reviews.
Nonetheless, Quinn declared himself “thrilled” on Twitter this afternoon:
This was not the first time the government has been defeated in the current Seanad with the opposition and independent senators joining forces to defeat the coalition twice on its agenda for the day – the Order of Business – in June 2012.
There was also a near miss in August of last year when Burke had to use his casting vote to ensure that an opposition motion on organ transplant legislation was defeated.
[Screengrabs: Oireachtas TV and Twitter]