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Government wins Dáil confidence vote by margin of 85 to 66

The government motion was tabled in response to a no-confidence vote by Sinn Féin.

Image: Oireachtas

Updated Jul 12th 2022, 9:55 PM

THE GOVERNMENT HAS won a confidence motion in the Dáil by a margin of 85 votes to 66.

It was expected to survive the motion, which was tabled in response to a no-confidence vote by Sinn Féin, despite having lost its majority last week.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said this evening that he did not believe voters want a general election at this point in time.

Speaking on Prime Time this evening, Martin said he believed that “they appreciate what the government has done in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, and the work that the government has done over the last two years, in respect of that pandemic … but also our leadership on the war on Ukraine.

“We can never be guided in government by opinion polls, because that would lead to short termism. This the problem with this motion of confidence – we’re only two years in government, in the face of unprecedented problems.

“A general election every two years is not a good thing for a country because it leads to short-term decision making, which isn’t good for people.

“Take issues like climate change, take issues like economic development, research, education, child care – you need four to five years in government to deliver reform and change.”

Tense debate

The debate on the motion saw both the government and the opposition outlining blistering criticisms of the other in their case for the vote.

“Fundamentally this is a debate between those who believe in tackling problems and those who believe in exploiting them.

“Shouting ‘not enough’, ‘more’ and ‘what-about’ represents an approach to politics that is, at its heart, deeply dishonest.

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Outlining the government’s achievements to date, Martin conceded that “there are many more issues to tackle, there are many who do not have access to the services they need – but you help these people by delivering credible, sustained and secure services not by the cynical politics of refusing to acknowledge any progress.”

Martin accused Sinn Féin of “the same aggressive populist politics which we are seeing in much of the world at the moment”.

But this will not last, because the extreme cynicism of this strategy is becoming clearer by the day. It will run out of road. It will be found out.

“I am proud of what my party and our partners in government have together helped our country to overcome in the past two years – and the policies we have put in place for sustained, long-term progress,” he said.

“We believe in a politics which works for the long-term interests of our country not one looks for issues to exploit.”

‘Three strikes and you’re out’

In her speech, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government had accumulated “three strikes” by failing to tackle crises in housing, health and the cost of living.

She accused the government of being “out of touch, clearly out of ideas and now out of time”.

“It’s not hard to see why this coalition is coming apart at the seams,” she said.

“It is a government that has presided over two years of utter and abject failure. Not only has this government failed to make improvements in the areas that really matter to people, but you have in fact managed to make a bad situation so much worse.

“People expect so much more from those they elect.”

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She said the government’s health policies “hollow out our public health system.”

On the cost of living crisis, she said that “households across the country are at breaking point” – not just households on low incomes, but “middle income households too.”

On housing, she said the Government “remain wedded” to the housing policies that caused the crisis.

“Children still grow up in hotels, in B&B’s, robbed of a decent childhood. For any state that calls itself a republic, one child in homelessness is a scandal. But hundreds of children homeless is a damning indictment of those in power,” she said.

The dogs on the street know and can see that Minister O’Brien has failed abysmally. Let me suggest that he be at the front of the queue when this government packs it’s bags to go.

She said it is now time for a housing minister that can deliver a strategy that will match up to the challenge.

“Housing can be fixed. There’s no doubt in that, but it will require a new government with the right priorities making the right choices. Simply put, we need a government that builds public homes on public lands at a massive scale, and these must be homes that ordinary people can actually afford to rent or buy.”

She urged independent TDs to vote against the Government. 

“You have a chance to stand up and make a difference and the ball is in your court,” she said.

“Will you stand with the workers and families you represent, or will you back a Government that consistently lets them down? With your eyes wide open, that is the question each of you will answer with your vote today.”

Attacks

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar dubbed Sinn Féin’s no-confidence motion “pointless” and “a publicity stunt”.

“I think actually Sinn Féin, often master tacticians, have made a tactical error here because you’ve allowed us to demonstrate tonight that we have a clear working majority that we will be able to pass a budget and that this government can and will last full term,” he said.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said McDonald’s speech was full of attacks with only one solution to the problems the country was facing.

He blasted Sinn Féin’s approach to politics and said it would not work if they were to lead the country.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien told McDonald that her “arrogance had not just gone stratospheric, it’s gone intergalactic”.

“You’d need Nasa’s Webb telescope to be able to track it,” he added.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said her party would not support the government for a number of reasons.

“We have never had confidence in this government to address the housing disaster, to address the childcare crisis, the spiralling cost of living or indeed the climate catastrophe,” she said.

In 2020, we did not support the election of the Taoiseach, and now we believe in the need for a change of government, because we believe that the project of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party has been unsuccessful. Despite their stated aims, they’re simply not delivering the desired or necessary outcomes or results.

She also criticised Sinn Féin for failing to mention the climate crisis in the no-confidence motion.

Solidarity-PBP TD Paul Murphy said the Government is doing “a great job for the people they represent”, citing the increased profits at big energy and food companies and landlords. 

‘Crisis into disaster’

Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said it is “impossible to vote confidence in this Government based on any objective analysis of their performance to date”.

She accused the Government of being “blind” to the “havoc it is causing in housing”, which she said has morphed “from a crisis into a disaster”.

“One of the most basic requirements of any functioning society is the provision of secure and affordable housing. It’s supposed to be the biggest priority for the Government, but it is also its biggest failure,” she said.

Sinn Féin tabled their no-confidence motion last week after the coalition lost its 80-seat Dáil majority, when Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh voted against the Government on mica redress legislation.

McHugh resigned the Fine Gael whip, leaving the Government with the confirmed support of just 79 TDs, one short of a majority.

A number of Independent TDs said that they would vote in favour of the Government this evening, including Tipperary TD Michael Lowry.

Sean Canney, TD for Galway East confirmed his intention to support the Government because he said the upcoming budget was more important than an election.

Meanwhile, Kildare South’s Cathal Berry previously said that his vote would depend on whether the Government plans to increase funding for the Defence Forces, which was agreed upon this afternoon.

Waterford’s Matt Shanahan said he would abstain as he did not agree with either the Government’s or Sinn Féin’s messaging on the issues that prompted the vote.

Suspended Green TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello, who had the whip removed from them in May after they voted against the Government, earlier confirmed that they would vote to support the coalition.

With reporting by Emer Moreau and the Press Association

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Jane Moore

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