Government set for majority of three in Murphy confidence vote

Maureen O’Sullivan says ‘housing situation is so dire, how could I abstain?’

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Tom Honan

Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Tom Honan

 

The Government is set for a majority of three in a Dáil motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy, according to latest estimates.

However, a number of Independent TDs have yet to declare how they will cast their vote in the Dáil at around 10 pm on Tuesday.

A tally carried out by The Irish Times puts the Government on 54 votes in support of Mr Murphy, 51 votes against, with 49 TDs abstaining or absent. However, four TDs - Noel Grealish, Denis Naughten, Mattie McGrath and Carol Nolan - have yet to reveal how they will vote. Mr McGrath had previously indicated he would not to anything to precipitate a general election but is now understood to be considering voting against the Government.

The Government has said a loss on the motion will lead to a general election over Christmas. The Social Democrats, who have tabled the motion, reject this and say it is a motion against Mr Murphy only and not the Government.

Independent Dublin Central TD Maureen O’Sullivan told The Irish Times: “My inclination has always been to abstain, but the housing situation is so dire, how could I abstain on this tonight?” She added that she usually disliked motions of no confidence but nevertheless felt she has to support the motion against Mr Murphy this evening.

Tipperary Independent TD Michael Lowry earlier confirmed he will vote with the Government and against the motion of no confidence in Mr Murphy.

“I stuck it out with Bertie Ahern, I stuck it out with Brian Cowen. In politics, there has to be a degree of loyalty,” he said. “The timing of this motion is absolutely ridiculous. It is ill timed and ill judged and all wrong.”

Mr Lowry added that the housing problem has been “brewing for years”, back to Fianna Fáil governments.

One Minister on his way to Cabinet on Tuesday morning also expressed confidence that Mr Grealish, the Galway West Independent, will also vote with the Government. It is understood Mr Grealish was lobbied on the issue in recent days.

Mr Murphy said the Social Democrats motion of no confidence was “opportunistic and reckless” and he did not think it would succeed.

Mr Murphy said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the Social Democrats had not once questioned him about Rebuilding Ireland and had not made any amendments to his rent reform Bill. He also pointed out that members of the Social Democrats had objected to housing in their own constituencies.

“This is a stunt from the Social Democrats. Rebuilding Ireland is working.”

The co-leader of the Social Democrats Róisín Shortall said her party’s no-confidence motion in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy is not about “triggering an election”.

“The Government is spinning that. This is about a significant number of TDs saying they are not confident in Eoghan Murphy. This is an opportunity to address the housing crisis. Minister Murphy needs to step down.”

Ms Shortall said her party is calling for a new approach to the housing crisis and replacing the current Minister is a way to do that.

Ms Shortall added: “This is about forcing the Government to take a different approach. What Minister Murphy is doing is not working. It’s affecting people in all walks of life. Having a home is out of the reach of lots of people.”

Affordability

Ms Shortall said the Government is “far too dependent” on the market and spending €400 million on Housing Assistance Payment does not create “a single individual house.”

The Government has spent little time on the issue of affordability, she said, and people on average incomes can no longer afford a home. She said the Government targets for social housing are “unambitious” and the country needs an ambitious building programme.

When asked why the Social Democrats were raising the issue, she responded: “why wouldn’t we raise the biggest issue? We’re a small party, but we’re building gradually and will continue to build.

“We are serious about our policies and about tackling the housing issue.”

Mr Murphy said that if the Rebuilding Ireland programme was not in place the numbers of people in housing crisis and homelessness would be much higher.

“A huge amount of work is being done. The opposition hasn’t provided alternative plans.”

He said that since he became Minister for Housing, targets in the social housing sector had increased by 30 per cent.

Confirming his support for the Minister, Mr Lowry said he believed Mr Murphy had “got to grips with the problem, I think housing is turning and I think who is in the next government will take credit for it”.

Mr Lowry took issue with Labour criticising Mr Murphy and said Willie Penrose, Jan O’Sullivan and Alan Kelly - “our own genius here” in Tipp - were all in charge of housing at some point during the Fine Gael-Labour coalition between 2011 and 2016.

In response, Mr Kelly told RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke that Mr Lowry’s main goal was to be relevant, and called his constituency colleague “Comical Lowry”.

Mr Murphy is likely to survive the Dáil motion, although a number of Independent TDs whose support the Government hopes to secure have yet to declare their hands.

Independent TD for Louth Peter Fitzpatrick has said he will not be supporting the Government in Tuesday’s no confidence vote in Mr Murphy. Mr Fitzpatrick resigned from Fine Gael last year.