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Senator Lisa Chambers revealed this week that she voted against the Yes Yes campaign. Sam Boal
Lisa Chambers

Fianna Fáil politicians voting against Yes-Yes campaigns 'won't impact coalition' - Varadkar

The Taoiseach said he would question why the members waited to announce that they were on the “winning side” until after the votes were tallied.

LAST UPDATE | 12 Mar

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said he does not expect coalition members revealing they voted No/No on the 8 March referendums will adversely affect relations between the partners “in any way”.

However, the Taoiseach questioned why the members would announce they were on the “winning side” only after the votes were tallied.

A number of Fianna Fáil politicians have revealed this week that they went against the Government’s Yes-Yes position and voted No in one or both of Fridays referendums.

Senator Lisa Chambers and TD Willie O’Dea have said they voted no to both amendments while TD Niamh Smyth has said she opted for yes in the family vote and no in the care vote.

TD John McGuinness also voted no in both referendums, which he had indicated he would do in the run-up to Friday.

In a statement provided to The Journal, Chambers said she was always going to vote against the care amendment.

However, she added that she was swayed at the last minute towards voting against the family amendment, after seeing the Attorney General’s leaked advice, which was published by The Ditch.

“I went out on one canvass a few weeks back at the start of the campaign when I was supporting a yes vote in the family referendum,” she said. 

“I didn’t participate in any debates or ask for a yes vote on my social media platforms. I was never supporting the care proposal for the simple reason that the word ‘mother’ was being removed from the constitution. 

“I changed my mind on the family question when I read the AG advice just before polling. I think probably a lot of people were swayed by the AG advice.” 

Chambers is due to run for a seat in the European Parliament this June in the Midlands-North-West constituency. 

Speaking in Boston in the United States today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said TDs and Senators had a full time job and went against claims that the elected officials did not fully understand the proposals until the night before.

“They had ample time and they are paid to do this,” Varadkar said.

‘The wording wasn’t strong enough’

Another Fianna Fáil TD, Niamh Smyth, said that while she did “a little bit” of canvassing for a Yes-Yes vote in the build-up, on the day of the referendums she voted against the care amendment.

Smyth cited concerns she had heard raised by advocates for people with disabilities, particularly independent senator Tom Clonan.

She told RTÉ Radio that she listened to the debate and the views of those advocates who she said “felt the wording wasn’t strong enough and didn’t represent what they want to see in our Constitution. And for that reason, I voted no”. 

Over the weekend, Willie O’Dea tweeted a strongly worded criticism of his party. He also told RTÉ he had voted no to both amendments and that he had not canvassed in favour of a yes-yes vote. 

He added that he answered questions about the referendums while campaigning for local candidates and he did his best to explain the amendments. 

In his tweet, he said “Fianna Fáil needs to get back to basics & abandon the Hate Speech Bill etc. Focus on Housing, Health and Law & Order and stop playing to the woke gallery.

“Start listening to the people, stop talking down to them and stop listening to the out of touch Greens & NGOs.” 

‘It’s too late coming out afterwards saying you voted no’

Speaking to Newstalk yesterday, Carlow-Kilkenny TD John McGrath said he voted no because the Yes-Yes side had “no argument” and was critical of all three government parties.

McGrath described the campaign as “thrown together” and the leadership of the parties “tone deaf”, adding that his Fianna Fáil colleagues should have come out and declared their support for a no vote before the referendums took place. 

“It’s too late coming out afterwards and saying. ‘I voted no’,” he said. 

He added that he agrees with Willie O’Dea’s call to abandon the Government’s hate speech law. 

The Taoiseach echoed this criticism and said he would “question” why the politicians waited until after the Yes/Yes campaigns were defeated to say they had voted no.

“I can understand how people in the privacy of the ballot box might vote in a particular way but I’m not really sure what the wisdom of it is,” Varadkar said.

“But, you know, they’re all elected in their own right, and they’re all grown ups and they’re all free to explain themselves. I don’t think I can do it for them.”

Includes reporting from Press Association

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