Former FF minister Jim McDaid resigns from Dáil

 

Donegal North East TD Dr Jim McDaid has resigned his seat in the Dáil, a decision that cuts the Government's majority to just three.

He stepped down today after writing to Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan last week.

The former minister has been without the Fianna Fáil whip since abstaining in a vote on the cervical cancer vaccination programme in 2008.

Dr McDaid's resignation has been formally accepted by the Dáil. Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk announced to the Dáil this afternoon before the start of business that he had received Dr McDaid’s letter of resignation.

He also said that under Dáil proceedings the resignation becomes effective once the Ceann Comhairle receives notice.

Dr McDaid’s resignation becomes effective as of today, reducing the Government majority in the Dail to three.

Coupled with the three outstanding byelections, Dr McDaid’s resignation brings the number of vacancies in the Dáil to four.

Dr McDaid recently threatened to vote against the forthcoming budget unless his local Letterkenny General Hospital was protected from health cuts.

In a letter to the Taoiseach, Mr McDaid said a general election should have been called before the December Budget. He said that despite some courageous and difficult decisions and the need to set tough savings targets. no significant progress had been made in reducing the deficit.

He also accused the Government of taking political soft options and not tackling the real issues.

“At this point I believe that it is in the best interests of the people of Ireland that the Government of Ireland has a working majority in the Dáil of at least 20 seats, even if that Government is comprised of parties who have traditionally stood in opposition to Fianna Fáil,” Dr McDaid said. “And I hope that Government will have the strength to take on their obvious responsibilities, free from the shackles of social partnership and political Dutch auctions.”

Dr McDaid said the country would be gripped by instability and uncertainty in the spring unless a new Government was brought in and claimed Government was “focusing on what is politically possible rather than what is economically necessary”.

He claimed the Government opted for cuts to frontline hospital services rather than reducing public sector pay numbers. He also criticised the situation whereby Ireland has the second highest minimum wage in Europe despite an unemployment rate of 14 per cent.

He claimed that only a limited number of the recommendations of the Bord Snip Nua report have been implemented and said he believed the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the bond markets had no confidence in Ireland. “That’s because they see this Government as a temporary little arrangement, that another is waiting in the wings and they await to see the colour of their eyes,” he said.

The former minister's resignation is another blow to the Government’s fragile working majority in the Dáil.

There are 166 seats in the Dáil. Four are vacant following the resignations of Martin Cullen in Waterford, George Lee in Dublin South and Dr McDaid and the election to Europe of Fianna Fail TD in Donegal South West Pat Gallagher.

The Government has 77 TDs - 70 Fianna Fail, six Green and former Progressive Democrat Mary Harney. The Opposition has 75 - 51 for Fine Gael, 20 for Labour and four for Sinn Féin.Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk only votes in a tie.

Former Fianna Fáil parliamentary party members Eamon Scanlon and Jimmy Devins are expected to support the Government, as are Independents Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae.

There are a number of former Government TDs whose support is not guaranteed including Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath, who was expelled from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party for abstaining from voting on the stag hunting Bill.

Independent Galway TD Noel Grealish withdrew his support for the Government last month over health cuts in the west, while Wicklow TD Joe Behan resigned from Fianna Fáil in October 2008 over plans to end universal medical cards to the over-70s.

Independents Finian McGrath and Maureen O'Sullivan usually vote with the Opposition.

In a statement, Government Chief Whip John Curran wished Dr McDaid well.

"Jim has been a fine public representative during his time as a deputy for the people of Donegal. Serving both as a TD and a Minister, Jim has always put the well-being of his constituents, and this country, at the forefront of his political efforts," he said.

“Although the Government has not being relying on Jim’s vote in the Dáil for a period, I have always maintained a strong working relationship with him. I am disappointed today that this will no longer be the case, but accept the decision that he has made."

Minister of State with responsibility for Science, Technology and Innovation Conor Lenihan said this morning the news came as a surprise for everyone in Fianna Fáíl. He said it will make the numbers “very tight” and “clearly we [the Government] will have to manage that very carefully.”