Government narrowly wins organ donation vote
Cathaoirleach’s casting vote needed as Healy-Eames and Bradford vote against coalition
Senator Mark Daly (centre) with members of the Irish Kidney Association Mark Murphy (left) Colin White, Gwen O’Donoghue, and Valerie Brady on the Plinth at the Dail after the recalled Seanad debate on organ donation. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
The Government has narrowly avoided an embarrassing defeat in the Seanad when the casting vote of Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke was required to defeat a Fianna Fáil motion on organ donation.
The two Fine Gael senators who lost the party whip over the abortion question, Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy-Eames, sided with the opposition and voted against the Government.
Their stance may raise the possibility of further disciplinary action being taken against them by Fine Gael.
The outcome of the vote was 22 to 22 when it was called at 2pm at which stage Mr Burke sided with the Government in his casting vote.
The Upper House was recalled today for an emergency session in the middle of the summer recess to discuss the directive on organ donation, which was transposed into Irish law in August 2012 without being debated in the Dáil or Seanad.
Minister of State for Health Alex White told the chamber that no case had been made of any strength why the legislation should be annulled.
He specifically refuted a contention by Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly that it was “flawed legislation that is disastrous”.
Fianna Fáil leader Daragh O’Brien criticised Minister for Health James Reilly “did not see fit to come into the House” and Mr White had to stand in his stead.
The Seanad was recalled after Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly secured the signatures of 20 Senators to force the special sitting, employing provisions of the 1972 legislation that gave effect to Ireland joining the European community.
Sen Daly has claimed the directive as applied by statutory instrument is flawed and should have been scrutinised by the Oireachtas rather than signed into law directly by Minister for Health James Reilly without any consultation.
However, a number of deputies on the Government side described Mr Daly’s move as a “stunt” and “opportunistic”, arguing that Fianna Fáil has had a whole year since the directive was signed into law in August 2012 to bring up the issue, but spurned the many opportunities afforded in the Seanad over the past year.
The independent senator Jillian van Turnhout said she supported Mr Daly’s similar attempt to seek an emergency session last summer but said this recall reminded her of the way in which the Bobby Ewing character in Dallas had forgotten an entire year.
However, a number of senators on the Government side, including Jim Darcy and Martin Conway, have said that the recall has had the effect of highlight the issues surrounding organ donation in Ireland and may have accelerated Government action in that regard. Mr Darcy and others referred to the necessity for the Human Tissues Bill, to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
In another reference to Dallas, Prof John Crown changed its famous phrase ‘Who shot JR?” to “Where is JR?”, a reference to the absent Minister for Health James Reilly.
Several senators also referred to the recall as useful in emphasising the important role of that the Seanad can play, especially in relation to scrutinising EU legislation.
Averill Power of Fianna Fáil and Paul Coghlan of Fine Gael both argued for that role in the course of their speeches.