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The government is having a really bad day in the Seanad

The coalition has a minority in the upper house at present.
Jul 15th 2015, 8:13 PM 29,620 55

Updated 8.13pm 

THE GOVERNMENT HAS suffered a number of defeats in the Seanad today.

The coalition does not currently have a majority in the upper house and the opposition have managed to exploit this on a number of occasions in recent months.

This evening, a Fianna Fáil calling for the reversal of the recent cut to the lone parent allowance was passed.

Opposition senators defeated government efforts to amend the motion and then passed the motion itself by 24 votes to 22.

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Earlier the coalition was defeated by 24 votes to 23 on a motion calling for Health Minister Leo Varadkar to come before it.

Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly put forward the motion calling for the minister to address the Seanad on vacancy in the the only pancreas transplant surgeon post in the country.

The passing of the motion was greeted with applause by senators on the opposition benches but led to half an hour of uncertainty.

seanad applause

As a result of the motion being passed senators’ Order of Business for the day was amended to allow for the minister to come in.

However, the government leader in the Seanad, Fine Gael’s Maurice Cummins, said it was not possible to bring in his party colleague, insisting “he won’t be available for the next three days”.

Sticking to his guns, the Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien (below) said the government was required to put forward a spokesperson on the issue.

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The house has passed the motion and the house has passed the amended Order of Business. It’s up to the government to provide a minister.

Cummins asked that the house be suspended until 1.30pm to allow him time “to manufacture a minister to come into the house”. 

He returned just after 1.30pm to say that Varadkar had agreed to come into the house at 9pm tonight to discuss Daly’s motion.

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The Beaumont post has been vacant since the retirement of surgeon David Hickey last year.

This situation has, according to O’Brien, resulted in the shutting down of Ireland’s pancreas transplant programme, “leaving eight seriously ill patients with no access to appropriate medical care and no hope of accessing life-saving surgery in Ireland”.

He added:

What we need now is for the Health Minister to come before the Seanad this evening and provide the answers that these patients have been crying out for.

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 vacant seat.

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

Read: Here’s why Enda Kenny now has a BIG problem in the Seanad

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Hugh O'Connell

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