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Chief Whip: We'll do something about the issue which most frustrates backbenchers*

*After the next election.

Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe
Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

GOVERNMENT CHIEF WHIP Paul Kehoe has reiterated that Fine Gael will look at loosening the strict party whip system after the next election.

The whip system has been widely criticised in this government’s lifetime most notably when seven Fine Gael TDs and senators voted against abortion legislation last year and were automatically expelled from the parliamentary party.

Kehoe described the whip system as the issue which frustrates backbenchers the most and identified three areas where it could potentially be loosened: electing the Ceann Comhairle, the Order of Business and on some Oireachtas committees.

“This is something I am very aware of, that backbenchers have been on to me about,” he told TheJournal.ie at the Fine Gael think-in at Fota Island yesterday.

“It’s probably one of the biggest single issues that frustrates backbenchers the most, especially on the committees.”

He added: “It’s definitely something we will look at after the next general election.”

Kehoe made a similar pledge over a year ago amid mounting pressure from some backbenchers for a looser whip system to be applied on some Dáil and committee votes.

Banking inquiry

Amid mounting criticism over its handling of the banking inquiry earlier this year the government said that no whip would be applied to its members on the special Oireachtas committee.

However Kehoe cautioned that loosening the whip system across the board at committee level may not be possible, saying there could be no free votes when the Finance Committee is passing legislation giving effect to budget measures.

He acknowledged there has been “huge criticism” of the government’s strict applicatin of the whip because of its large Dáil majority and said that Fine Gael TDs elected in 2011 have been particularly vocal on the issue.

Kehoe also denied that the banking inquiry had been damaged by the government’s move to add two extra members to the committee after it inadvertently lost its majority earlier this year.

Kehoe admitted the matter was handled badly in the Seanad but insisted: “It wasn’t my fault. If you reflect back it was actually a Senate issue.

“I am not going to blame anyone, but the people know themselves. But I don’t think the banking inquiry is damaged in anyway.”

Last year: Government chief whip will look at allowing free votes after next election

Read: Free vote for TDs among radical proposals for Dáil reform

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Hugh O'Connell

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