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It’s all personal in politics

Inside Politics: Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy comes before Dáil

Sinn Féin has put forward a motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. Photo Gareth Chaney Collins

Good morning.

Today will be one of those days in Leinster House. At 8pm, Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy will be taken in Private Members’ time. This is not a motion of no confidence in the Government, but it might as well be - except it’s even more personalised, directed as it is at one person, and not the entire Government. Everyone will say it’s not personal. Murphy might disagree. As Michael Corleone said, it’s all personal.

Barring a very large accident, Murphy will survive tonight’s vote. All shore leave has been cancelled. Fine Gael and Independent Alliance TDs will march through the lobbies in support of their colleague, not just because they think he’s doing as well as anyone could in the circumstances, but because most of them are glad they don’t have his job.

Fianna Fáil will sit on its hands, as per the agreement. Odds are that Catherine Byrne, the junior minister who spectacularly ambushed her party colleague Murphy at the launch of a social housing development in Inchicore during the summer, will be prevailed upon to vote confidence in him.


Even if she chooses to go missing - which would cost her ministerial job, the Taoiseach made clear yesterday- the Government should still win the vote. Unaligned Independents don't want an election either, thank you very much.

In a way, Governments like confidence motions - it gives them an opportunity to rally the troops, cheer their guys and point out the emptiness of the Opposition’s criticisms, their lack of any real alternative (as they would see it).

But the last few months have not been good for Murphy. He is increasingly the face of the housing crisis. Progress on house-building is slow, too slow; the Government remains convinced that actions to strengthen tenants’ rights will scare more landlords out of the market, worsening the situation. Public impatience seems to be growing, as the effects of the chronic shortage of housing, especially in Dublin, extend throughout society. The Minister’s colleagues will back him today, and he will personally come out fighting. But he can’t take the hits indefinitely. Nobody can.

Dog’s Brexit, part 47

The latest batch of British Government papers on Brexit was published yesterday, and the story makes make our lead today.

In Dublin, these papers are taken not as evidence the British are prepared for a no-deal Brexit, but the exact opposite.

Elsewhere, the fallout from last week’s EU summit in Salzburg continues. Theresa May scrambles to save the Chequers plan, but it looks increasingly like she is the only one who believes it is still alive. The EU ruled it out; the Brexiteers hate it. Irish Government sources say: hunker down and wait until the Tory Party conference is over. But at all levels, in Dublin, Brussels and London, there is increasing pessimism about the prospect of reaching a deal that keeps everyone happy and avoids a hard border in Ireland.

The British Labour Party seems determined to mirror the Conservatives’ divisions. The party conference will this morning debate a motion that says the party will “support all options remaining on the table”. Does this mean the option of a vote to remain in the EU? Possibly, says Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer. No, says shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up. Labour leader Brendan Howlin is over there, trying to talk sense to them. He doesn’t seem to be having much success. Maybe they should have sent Alan Kelly? Ah, stop it.

Denis Staunton's report is here.

In the British press, the Guardian is reporting that May told Leo Varadkar she could live with some sort of a backstop but that Stormont would have to vote on it. There would appear to be one immediate flaw with that one.

All the President’s bills

Lots of coverage this morning of the Presidential election, which is grinding into gear. Yesterday Michael D Higgins became Candidate Higgins, lodging his nomination papers.

He also said he would take part in debates. Just not yet.

This morning it’s the turn of Seán Gallagher who will be banging on the doors of the Customs House, Mrs G and the kids in tow. The three dragons and Sinn Fein’s Liadh Ní  Riada make up the slate of candidates. Journalist Gemma O’Doherty seems unlikely at this stage to make it onto the ballot paper, unless she can persuade Oireachtas members who have already turned her down to change their minds. Possible, but not likely.

Candidate Higgins will no doubt be watching the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) this morning, where the country’s top civil servant, Martin Fraser, will appear as a witness to assist the members in their neatly - or curiously, depending on your point of view - timed scrutiny of spending in Áras an Uachtaráin. These are murky legal and constitutional waters - the President is not accountable to the Dáil, but the Dáil is responsible for all monies it votes to spend, including on the President’s Establishment (as they say).

Some giggling in the usual disreputable quarters about whether the honourable members will get to inspect Michael D’s room service orders. We’re willing to bet around here that they definitely won’t. Anyway, worth tuning in.

Best reads

David Gwynn Morgan on the PAC and the President.Also on today's front page.

Guess what? One of Ireland's favourite tax loopholes is still flying.

A great explainer from Fiona Reddan.

Liam Sheedy is back as Tipperary manager.

Those of you who think that some pointy-head solving a 160-year-old maths problem is more important have a strange view of the world.


Seán Gallagher is dropping off the nominations papers at 9.30am, and that PAC hearing starts at 10am.

The Dáil has Leaders’ Questions at 2pm following by usual comings and goings until Brexit statements at 6pm and the no confidence motion at 8pm. The vote is provisionally scheduled for 10pm.

The Seanad has statements on the Scally report into the CervicalCheck screening programme.

Full details, including the committees, are here.

And that's it. We'll keep you posted throughout the day on The odd tweet, maybe. Tune in if you can. Keep an eye on Brexit. Remember if you're in Cork that it's the feast day of St Finbarr. And have an utterly fruity day.