Government loses Oireachtas vote

Wed, Mar 14, 2012, 00:00

The Government lost a vote taken at a meeting of the Oireachtas finance committee this evening.

The outspoken Fine Gael backbench TD Peter Matthews had submitted a strongly-worded letter to committee chairman Alex White of Labour, insisting that the Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan attend a meeting of the finance committee within 10 days.

Mr Matthews specified this timeframe in his letter dated March 13th because the deadline for paying €3.1 billion in promissory note debt is March 31st.

The letter was also signed by 16 other members of the 27-member committee, including two Fine Gael Senators and one Labour Senator.

The Fine Gael Senators were Tom Sheahan and Michael Darcy, while the Labour Senator was Aideen Hayden.

The committee had discussed the letter in private session between 2pm and 2.30pm yesterday afternoon, but could not agree on how to proceed with the matter.

When the committee moved into public session it discussed the agenda item: the operations and functioning of Nama with the agency’s chairman Frank Daly and chief executive officer Brendan McDonagh.

The committee went into private session again after 6pm. By that stage a draft invitation to Mr Honohan had been circulated to committee members. The draft letter asked Mr Honohan to attend “at the earliest opportunity”, but did not specify a date.

Mr Matthews then argued that Mr Honohan should be asked to attend by the March 23rd. However, a whip was applied and Mr Matthews voted against his own proposal.

Nonetheless, the Government side lost the vote because there were not enough Fine Gael and Labour members in the room. Mr Matthews’ motion, which he had voted against, was passed by a combination of Opposition members.

Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne, a committee member, tweeted to say that Government members “were absent, late, or locked out”.

The door of the committee rooms are locked when a vote is being taken.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting took place last night, which was a factor in so many Government TDs being absent delayed or absent.

“Even the Brian Cowen government never lost a vote,” Mr Byrne tweeted.

In another tweet, Mr Byrne said a “strong letter” would now be sent to Mr Honohan, calling on him to appear before the committee. Mr Byrne said this was against the Government’s “wish” and stressed that that date was before the promissory note payment is due.

He said the vote committee voted by 11 votes to 9 in favour of the motion.

Also last night, Opposition TDs sought an adjournment of the Dail because no Government Minister or TD was present during a debate on mortgages.

The absence of a single TD from either Government party is believed to be unprecedented in recent decades.