Politics
Subscriber Only

National Maternity Hospital vote poses conundrum for Coalition

Inside Politics: Could the Rural Independents be responsible for the loss of a Green TD?

The Government may lose a Green Party TD tonight and it is Mattie McGrath’s band of Rural Independents that could be directly to blame.

Sinn Féin has tabled a motion calling for the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to be built on public land.

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan said she could not vote against the motion due to her concerns over the NMH project in its current format.

The Coalition however, thought it had found a way of avoiding a Dáil vote that would expose the division in their ranks and potentially lead to the loss of at least one TD.

After Cabinet signed off on the plan to move the NMH to the St Vincent’s Hospital campus, the Government said it would not oppose Sinn Féin’s motion, which was non-binding anyway, and thus negate the need for a vote on Wednesday night.

Sinn Féin said this was “deeply cynical” but from the Government’s point of view it meant Ms Hourigan would be kept onside, albeit she still remains opposed to the plans for the NMH.

However, the Rural Independent Group has said it opposes the Sinn Féin motion, and that it wants the NMH project to go ahead as soon as possible.

That may be so but it also won’t be lost on people that the move to call a vote – by some of the Green Party’s most strident Dáil critics – has the added satisfaction for the Rural Independents of causing a headache for Eamon Ryan.

The Green Party leader will have to decide what repercussions Ms Hourigan will face if she does vote with the Opposition.

Another Green Party TD Patrick Costello was also sharply critical of the Cabinet decision on the NMH, but his voting intentions could not be ascertained on Tuesday evening.

In 2020 Ms Hourigan resigned as Green Party whip and had her Dáil speaking rights suspended for two months after she voted against the Government on a piece of housing legislation.

It is understood the Green Party will wait until the result of any vote on the NMH before deciding what to do if deputies do not vote with the Government.

The Government has two choices: it can either abstain or vote against the motion, and face the prospect of some of its own deputies voting against it, and potentially losing the whip; or vote with Sinn Féin, and effectively against a Cabinet decision taken a little more than 24 hours previously, albeit on a non-binding basis.

Our lead story today has all the details of this conundrum for the Coalition.

Jennifer Bray also has an in-depth background piece on how Cabinet finally signed off on the NMH move here.

Northern Ireland protocol

The row over the Northern Ireland protocol in the Brexit deal shows no sign of abating. Pat Leahy, Denis Staunton, Naomi O'Leary and Seanín Graham have the latest here.

The Government reacted with public disappointment and private anger to the British announcements on Tuesday that it would legislate to set aside parts of the protocol and proceed with a plan that could block prosecutions for some murders during the Troubles.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin accused British prime minister Boris Johnson of unilaterally abandoning agreements in pursuit of domestic political goals.

The division between the Irish and British governments – two erstwhile partners in the Northern Ireland peace process – is turning into their worst rift in many years. Once again Simon Carswell is on hand with an explainer on the issues involved, this time outlining how the UK wants to change the Brexit deal.

Best reads

Miriam Lord picks up on the Taoiseach's argument that leasing the land for the new NMH at €10 per year for 299 years amounts to public ownership, saying it's his version of the "Penneys humblebrag".

Kathy Sheridan says the maternity hospital debate has been hijacked by fear and loathing.

Arthur Beesley has the latest on the Siteserv deal following the seven-year enquiry by Mr Justice Brian Cregan.

The draft law on the right to remote working is back at the Oireachtas enterprise committee today (9.30am onwards), where politicians will be told that the grounds for denying requests to work from home may be reduced. We also report on how the Government reckons remote working could save you €304 per year.

Playbook

Perhaps the most compelling Dáil action of the day will be the weekly votes from 8.30pm this evening when we will know for sure how the Government will respond to the Sinn Féin motion on the NMH and what way Green Party TDs will vote.

Other proceedings start at 9.12am with topical issues.

A debate on a Social Democrats motion on subsidies for developers begins at 10am.

Leaders’ Questions is at noon.

Later, 2.49pm sees the start of statements on climate action “just transition” as part of today’s Government business.

Elsewhere the committee on health will examine the HSE’s National Service Plan for 2022 from 9.30am.

From 1.30pm the transport and communications committee will look at the future of the An Post network and meet the chairman designate of Dublin Bus, Gary Owens.

Also at 1.30pm, the finance committee will engage with representatives of Ulster Bank and KBC, which are both leaving the Irish market.

The Seanad will see further debate on the Birth Information and Tracing Bill.

The full Dáil, Seanad and committee schedules can be found here, here and here.