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The government got a (very brief) scare in the Seanad today

The opposition has managed to force Arts Minister Heather Humphreys to come into the house later today.

Updated 1.45pm 

THE GOVERNMENT SUFFERED an embarrassing defeat in the Seanad this lunchtime as senators failed to agree on their agenda for the day.

The dispute centred on opposition senators’ attempts to bring in Arts Minister Heather Humphreys for a debate on the the controversial sale of the Beit paintings.

Fianna Fáil led attempts to have a bill on offshore drilling safety removed from the agenda and to bring in Humphreys for a debate on the paintings controversy instead. 

The proposal to have a debate with the minister today was narrowly defeated by the government, but opposition senators forced a tie – 17 votes to 17 – after they called a walk through vote.

As a result of the deadlock, the Seanad cathaoirleach Paddy Burke, who usually abstains, deployed his casting vote to defeat the proposal to bring Humphreys in today:

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

Unhappy opposition senators then managed to vote down the Seanad’s Order of Business.

This effectively meant that the house could not agree its agenda for the day and therefore had no agenda.

As a result, with no business agreed, senators suspended the house until 1.30pm.

Opposition senators were delighted with themselves:

After the 15-minute break, Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (Fine Gael) informed the senators that the government agreed to an hour-long debate on the Beit paintings issue at 4.30pm.

“The minister will reply to the debate at 5.20pm,” Cummins informed the house. “That’s the earliest possible time that the minister [Humphreys] can be here, but she will be here.”

Fianna Fáil’s Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien agreed with the proposal and the Seanad then suspended itself until 4.30pm.

The coalition has been in the minority in the Seanad since the botched attempt to elect John McNulty to a Fine Gael seat last year. This resulted in independent Gerard Craughwell winning a by-election for the seat.

Read: Our newest Senator is ‘dismayed’ at being denied entry to independent group

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Hugh O'Connell

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