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Government survives (for now) after scraping through Dáil vote

Inside Politics: Motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy defeated by 56 votes to 53 with 35 abstentions

The first thing you need to know this morning is that you won’t have to answer your front door to an eager TD asking for your vote in the next three weeks.

That is because a general election has not been triggered right smack-bang during the festivities.

The Government last night scraped its way through a motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. It survived the motion by 56 votes to 53 with 35 abstentions.

We have had similar motions before, but this time it was slightly different. Independent politicians who would normally abstain on such votes wobbled.


For example, take Maureen O’Sullivan, who spoke to Fiach Kelly before the vote took place. She said: “My inclination has always been to abstain, but the housing situation is so dire – how could I abstain on this tonight?”

Furthermore, Independent Peter Fitzpatrick voted against the Government as did the Rural Independents group.

However, Fianna Fáil abstained in the vote as part of the confidence-and-supply agreement.

The Government’s usual relative calm at securing these few Independent votes was somewhat disturbed. In the end, it was supported by Independents Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry and Denis Naughten.

What is most important here is the fact the slim working majority vote that Leo Varadkar has thus far commandeered is rapidly disappearing.

It comes after a rough few weeks for Fine Gael. The party has found itself weathering a Murphy-shaped hurricane in recent weeks: Verona Murphy, the byelection candidate whose comments linking Isis to the immigrant population have caused much angst; Dara Murphy, the TD accused of focusing on an EU job while taking Dáil expenses; and Eoghan Murphy, the Minister for Housing who is being accused of presiding over record-breaking figures of homelessness.

It hasn’t helped the party, to say the least. The truth of the matter is this: the Government barely scraped by last night. The old reliables aren’t so reliable any more.

The next time there is a motion of confidence (that is to say, no confidence) put down on housing or health, or some other controversy, it could very well spell the end of this arrangement as we know it.

That is maybe not so surprising given the general arithmetic. But it is interesting given both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are talking about an Easter election next year.

What last night showed us - with cold hard unassailable numbers - is that we will be probably be lucky to even get to that point.

All it takes is one “banana-skin” or one unexpected controversy, and you’ll have that earnest TD back on your doorstep before you can whisper the words “no confidence”.

And so Pat Leahy writes today it is "abundantly clear the administration has reached the end of the line". He points out the three-vote margin was seven less than the previous no-confidence motion in Eoghan Murphy in September of last year.

“The contraction of the majority feels like an accurate barometer of the seeping away of the Government’s authority,” he says.

Elsewhere, Miriam Lord writes the Dáil chamber was a "bingo player's dream on Tuesday evening, with a full house for the confidence vote in Eoghan Murphy".

Follow the fall-out today on

Denis Staunton’s UK election diary

It’s eight days until election day.

It was like a giant game of hide and seek at Buckingham Palace last night as Boris Johnson avoided Donald Trump, and palace flunkeys contrived to keep Jeremy Corbyn away from the US president.

The prime minister was so anxious to avoid being seen with Trump that he left him and his wife Melania shivering on the steps of Downing Street rather than go out to meet them. Read more here.

And finally . . .

Suzanne Lynch continues her stellar coverage of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

She writes today the inquiry has entered an extremely important phase with the publication of a 300-page report by the House intelligence committee.

“The report, which outlines the committee’s conclusions after weeks of private and public depositions and information-gathering, effectively sets out the grounds for impeachment,” Lynch writes.

“It alleges that Mr Trump used the powers of his office ‘to solicit foreign interference on his behalf in the 2020 election’ by asking the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden and to examine alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

“Concluding that Mr Trump ‘placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States’, the report argues the president undermined national security ‘in favour of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign’.”

That piece is here.

Best Reads

Former Defence Forces member Lisa Smith must be charged with a criminal offence or released from Garda custody without charge by about 10.30am on Wednesday, write Conor Lally and Jack Power.

One of the State's most senior officials has said he would like to have the power to "manage out" underperforming civil servants by paying them off. Read Pat Leahy's report here.

Europe is at an environmental tipping point that threatens its prosperity, and the risks go beyond the consequences of human-induced global warming, reports Kevin O'Sullivan.

The typical phone user in Ireland now checks their smart phone device 50 times a day, reports Conor Pope.

My colleague Fiach Kelly has a report on how Sinn Féin believes the Stormont institutions can be back up and running by Christmas. Read it here.


Dáil Éireann

Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty takes parliamentary questions at 10.30.

Leaders’ Questions are up at noon followed by Questions on Promised Legislation at 12.32.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will take questions at 13.02.

At 14.47, Topical Issues will be taken before a Private Members’ motion at 15.35 that will be a Fianna Fáil motion on the environment.

Government Business begins at 17.35 with the Microbeads Prohibition Bill 2019 followed by the Gaming and Lotteries Amendment Bill 2019 and Criminal Records Exchange of Information Bill.

At 22.15, the Dáil adjourns.


There are commencement matters at 10.30 followed by the Order of Business an hour later.

At 11.30 a motion on regulations at ports will be heard.

At 12.45 there will be statements to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

At 14.15, the Social Welfare Bill is up.

Private Members’ Business is taken at 18.00, and the Civil Law (Costs in Probate Matters) Bill 2017 is up before the Seanad adjourns.


At 9.00 the Joint Committee on Health meets to discuss workforce planning in the mental health care sector with Forsa.

Also at 9.00 the Joint Committee on Justice meets to discuss citizenship rights and the DeSouza case with Ms Emma DeSouza, Prof Colin Harvey and Ms Una Boyd.

At 10.00 the Joint Committee on Children and Youth Affairs will meet to discuss governance issues in Scouting Ireland with representatives from Scouting Ireland.

At 10.30 the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport discusses the 2019 Supplementary Estimates for Public Services with Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

At 13.30 the Joint Committee on Public Petitions considers the latest petitions.

Then at 14.00 the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight will discuss the Fiscal Assessment Report November 2019 with representatives from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.

At 14.00 the Joint Committee on Climate Action will discuss issues around renewable energy: wind, solar and biogas.

At 15.45 the Select Committee on Justice and Equality will consider the Blasphemy Bill with Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.