Senators pass Social Welfare Bill following heated exchanges


The Social Welfare Bill was passed by 30 votes to 26 following acrimonious exchanges about the ruling out of order of a series of amendments. Opposition members claimed that attempts were being made to ram the Bill through without adequate debate. David Norris (Ind) suggested that the ruling should be defied and members should stand up for what they believed to be right.

Eamonn Coghlan, a nominee of the Taoiseach, who switched from being an Independent to membership of Fine Gael, was among those who did not vote on the passing of the Bill. Another absentee was James Heffernan (Lab), who had earlier voted against respite care grant cuts.

In a subsequent vote on the early signature of the Bill into law, Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) found himself unable to vote, while the motion was passed by the margin of 29 to 27.

John Gilroy (Lab) called for the immediate sacking of Permanent TSB public interest director Ray MacSharry. The former finance minister’s comments to an Oireachtas committee on Wednesday had been inappropriate at best, he contended. At worst, they demonstrated the level of capture by the banking industry of such directors.

“I am asking the Minister to remove this man immediately from his job,” Mr Gilroy said.

Fianna Fáil Seanad leader Darragh O’Brien said Mr Gilroy should voice such sentiments to Mr MacSharry’s face.

Catherine Noone (FG) said it was shocking that Mr MacSharry had said that there would be no debt forgiveness for PTSB mortgage holders after the three-year bankruptcy period. “I think it’s an absolutely outrageous statement.”

Government whip Paul Coghlan (FG) said there was no need for public interest directors in financial institutions. “They’re all captured by the prevailing culture of the institutions to which they have been appointed. It’s loyalty to the board.”

Mr Coghlan said it had not been appreciated when he had observed at the Oireachtas finance committee that these people were “as useful as paps on a bull”.