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Government confident it has numbers to win confidence motion in Justice Minister Helen McEntee

Tánaiste Micheál Martin says the government has the backing from several independent TDs.

THE GOVERNMENT BELIEVES it will comfortably win today’s no confidence vote in Helen McEntee, with a number of Independent TDs set to throw their support behind the Justice Minister.

Sinn Féin has tabled a vote of no confidence in McEntee in the wake of the night of rioting in Dublin, with the opposition party claiming that she failed to ensure public safety in the capital.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House on Friday, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said:

“It’s clear that the riots, this violence, this public disorder could have been foreseen, should have been foreseen, could have been prevented or contained through earlier action on the day had there been any leadership from the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice.”

As expected, Sinn Fein’s motion is set to be countered by a motion of confidence tabled by the Government.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin predicted the minister will receive “strong” support and backing from several independent TDs.

“Motions of confidence have become mechanisms that are used with increasing regularity by opposition, particular by Sinn Fein,” he said.

“So, I think, you know, there will be strong Government support and clearly a number of independents have indicated their support as well. So, I expect the motion of confidence in Helen McEntee to be passed tomorrow.” 

Sinn Féin’s motion is set to be supported by some parties such as the Social Democrats, while some Independents have also said they cannot vote confidence in the minister. 

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae told RTÉ’s Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin programme that while he does not approve of the motion being put down in the Dáil this week, as there is much work to get on with, he will not be voting confidence in McEntee.

He said he didn’t expect any of the Rural Independent TDs to vote confidence in the minister.

However, despite the minister’s detractors, a number of other Independent TDs are expected to give their support to the government numbers, including the likes of Michael Lowry, Denis Naughten, Sean Canney, Peter Fitzpatrick and Noel Grealish. 

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan, who is without the Government whip, said she would not vote confidence in McEntee. However, it is understood she has offered a pairing arrangement to the Government and would not vote no confidence. 

The pairing arrangement mechanism has also come into the spotlight this week for other reasons.

The arrangement is generally used when a TD has taken a leave of absence and is therefore not present to vote. They can enter an informal pairing arrangement with a TD from an opposing party TD, who agrees not to vote and so balances out their absence.

Initially, it had been expected that Environment Minister Eamon Ryan would have fly home to Dublin in the middle of the COP28 conference in Dubai to boost the Government’s numbers for a confidence motion. 

The minister was then to return back on the next flight to resume the conference. 

However, Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore has agreed to pair with Ryan, something which is not generally the norm for confidence motions. 

Government sources are confident that it will win comfortably today, stating that they have the numbers ensure McEntee is safe.

It is believed those in government were also bolstered a Sunday Independent poll which showed support for McEntee increased after the riot in Dublin.

“My own view is the institutions of the state came under attack and that’s a time for unity, the Tánaiste said yesterday.

“When bus drivers are attacked, when gardaí are attacked, and when businesses and workers are attacked via the fact that their shops are closed because of attacks on those particular premises, I mean, we all have to unite to oppose those who wish to attack the institutions of the state.

“And the focus should be on solutions, collectively within the Oireachtas working to develop ideas and solutions to deal with the issues that arise from the rioting of last week – and that’s on a number of fronts, not just in policing, but on a number of other fronts as well.”

With reporting by Press Association