Hourigan to keep committee chair role despite losing party whip

Two green TDs lost whip for six months after voting with Sinn Féin on NMH motion

Neasa Hourigan will be able to keep her role as chairwoman of the Budgetary Oversight Committee despite losing the Green Party whip.

Fellow rebel TD Patrick Costello can also stay on as a member of the Committee on Children as the sanctions imposed on the pair by the Green Party does not include their committee work.

Ms Hourigan and Mr Costello lost the party whip for six months after they voted in favour of the Sinn Féin motion on the National Maternity Hospital (NMH).

They will have to apply for readmission at the end of their suspension if they want to get back into the party fold.

Committee chair roles are allocated according to the D’Hondt system, a formula that results in the committee chairs proportionately reflecting each party’s representation in the Dáil chamber. The chairperson jobs come with an annual allowance of €9,595.

When Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry resigned from his parliamentary party last year his seat on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was reallocated to another Fianna Fáil TD.

Party leader Eamon Ryan could seek to have another Green Party TD appointed to the role of Chairperson of the Budgetary Oversight committee. However, Ms Hourigan will be allowed to stay in place.

A Green Party spokesperson said “there were no sanctions in relation to committee work”.

Dublin Central TD Ms Hourigan declined to comment on her suspension from the Green Party.

The Budgetary Oversight committee - one of the more powerful Dáil committees - conducts scrutiny of the Government’s Budgets both before and after the major annual political set-piece.

Mr Costello can also remain as an ordinary member of the Committee on Children - a role that does not come with extra payment.

The Coalition’s numbers in the Dáil have been stripped back to a bare majority of 80 as a result of Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello backing the Sinn Féin motion, a decision which resulted in them being stripped of the party whip.

While the reduced majority represents a significant blow for the Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Green Party administration, Independent TDs often vote with the Government to bolsters the numbers.

The motion, which the Government abstained on, called for the new NMH to be built on land owned by the State. The vote needed the backing of 10 TDs to go ahead and this was ensured after Rural Independent TDs and the People Before Profit-Solidarity group provided their support.

The chair of the Green Party, Senator Pauline O’Reilly on Thursday said there is unity of purpose within the party.

The two TDs who had voted against the Government in the Dáil on Wednesday had known there would be sanctions against them, she told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, but everyone in the party had the “utmost” respect for them and hoped that both would “return to the fold” after the six months.

All members of the Green Party believed the new National Maternity Hospital should be built on public land, she added, but that land simply was not for sale.

Further reassurances about the hospital had been given over the last number of months, including the extension of the lease from 99 to 299 years. Difficult decisions had to be made by Government and this was the best decision for the women of Ireland, she said.