Tánaiste denies Opposition a vote in its hours of need


SKETCH: The politics of productivity were high on the agenda of Opposition TDs yesterday.

They wanted an extension of today’s 3.30pm deadline for the passing of the second stage of the Finance (Local Property Tax) (Amendment) Bill, paving the way for the introduction of the infamous property tax.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore offered them an extra two hours. But that was not enough for a politically hungry Opposition who also wanted the second stage vote at the end of today’s debate. This would mean hapless Government backbenchers remaining in Dublin overnight to vote the hugely unpopular measure through this evening.

Gilmore, who was taking the Order of Business for the Government, insisted the vote would be taken on Tuesday when TDs gather next week.

When Gilmore proposed the 3.30pm deadline, Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary opposed it, claiming it was designed to allow Government TDs to go home for the weekend. He referred to today’s single-item agenda. “Either we have a proper Friday sitting or we do not.’’ The Fianna Fáil TD was forgetting that his political masters in FF-led governments over 14 years believed in few Friday sittings and much longer Oireachtas holidays than the current Government. That was when the Celtic Tiger was raging and all the world seemed young and innocent. Yesterday’s rhetoric matched the grim reality of these dark days, with all innocence lost.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald accused the Tánaiste of not grasping the seriousness of the property tax, adding that, at a minimum, he should not be guillotining the debate by imposing today’s second stage deadline.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said guillotining the Bill was nothing short of the sabotage and manipulation of the democratic process.

The Tánaiste attempted to wrongfoot the Opposition, proposing that today’s debate be extended to 5.30pm.

The Opposition then sought to wrongfoot the Tánaiste. Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins asked if that would include the second stage vote, requiring the presence of Government TDs in the Dáil rather than in their constituencies. Gilmore repeated he was offering two extra hours for today’s debate.

“We want a vote as well,’’ said Independent TD Mattie McGrath, willing to sacrifice his Tipperary South clinic diary to make life uncomfortable for the Government.

Gilmore repeated that the vote would be on Tuesday.

The Opposition rejected the two extra hours, opting to vote against the order guillotining the Bill. Neither side had won or lost in the political game.

Earlier the political needle between Labour and Sinn Féin surfaced when McDonald criticised Government cutbacks in youth grants. Gilmore dismissed “Father Ted’’ economics in a reference to the clerical television comedy of some years ago. “If Sinn Féin is Father Ted, the Tánaiste is Father Jack,’’ said Calleary.

Nobody offered a view on who might measure up to the gormless Father Dougal.