The Green Party chair has indicated Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan will face tougher sanctions than before if she votes against the Government in upcoming Dáil motions on the ending of the eviction ban.
In an article in this morning’s Sunday Independent, Ms Hourigan indicated she would support a Sinn Féin motion on the Government decision to end the eviction ban.
Senator Pauline O’Reilly, the Green Party chairperson, said all Government TDs are expected to vote with Government. “It is the price that you pay for going into Government,” she told RTÉ's This Week programme, and added that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs had voted on Green Party policies they found “challenging”.
She was asked about a contention that Ms Hourigan made in her Sunday Independent article that it was Green Party policy to uphold the ban, and said it was “not in our manifesto”- which was the basis for the going into Government and what had been voted on in 2020′s general election.
She said motions passed by the party were “hugely important”, but that it was “not realistic” to suggest that if any of the parties in Government decided something at membership level, that it would become Government policy.
The Senator defended the Green Party’s housing policies in government, including the development of cost rental, and reductions in childcare fees. “We have to sometimes vote on things that are challenging for us,” she said, but that the eviction ban couldn’t be there “forever”.
She said Ms Hourigan had voted against the government twice previously and signalled that she would face a tougher sanction than on previous occasions. She lost the whip for six months last year after voting against the government.
“I believe there will be sanctions and they will go beyond previously,” said Senator O’Reilly.
She said the party had to send a signal to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil so that their deputies would vote for Green policies. “There will be sanctions, there have to be sanctions, as we would expect from our government colleagues”.
She would not be drawn further on the nature of the sanctions she could face. However, “the general feeling is that we do need to step things up.”
“Green Party TDs are expected to vote in line with the Government. The parliamentary party will discuss this matter over the coming days,” a Green Party spokesperson told The Irish Times.
On Sunday, a Government spokesman said the coalition believed it would prevail in the vote in the Dáil this week. “The Government is confident that it’s counter motion will be passed,” they said.
Vote against Government
Rebel backbench member Ms Hourgian indicated in her article that she will vote against the Government on a Sinn Féin motion on ending the housing ban on Wednesday.
The move is likely to see her lose the Green Party whip, as the Government faces into a confidence motion on the issue before the end of the month, which the Labour Party said on Sunday it would put down.
Writing in the Sunday Independent, Dublin Central TD Ms Hourigan said there was no transparency over how the decision to lift the ban was made, or what measures to mitigate its termination were discussed.
“To achieve stable government all coalitions require compromise. As someone who has had to vote in many ways I have often thought were not sensible, or not in the best interests of my constituents, I’m more aware of this than most,” she wrote.
“But coalition niceties don’t count for much on the ground in Dublin Central, when all around you families are facing a life on the street.”
[ Sally Rooney: Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stopped ]
[ Taoiseach says housing crisis is raised with him by potential employers and investors ]
If she loses the whip, the Government’s on paper majority will be a single vote - with her party colleague and fellow backbench rebel Patrick Costello yet to declare his voting intentions.
However, the government may be able to see off the Sinn Féin motion with the support of a group of Independents who tend to vote with the coalition. In a legal sense, the vote is meaningless and non-binding, and the government is likely to put down an amendment to it before Wednesday’s vote, meaning the text of the motion itself is unlikely to be voted on.
However, the loss of a Dáil vote on the contentious issue would carry significant symbolic weight, and with the Labour no confidence motion now looming, increase the pressure on the government.
If the government fails to win a confidence motion, the Taoiseach and the Government must resign.
Speaking on Newstalk’s On The Record programme on Sunday, in an interview recorded earlier this week in the United States during her visit there as part of the St Patrick’s day festivities, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald dismissed the suggestion that her party’s private members motion on the lifting of the eviction ban was political theatre.
“There’s nothing theatrical about this. This is a most serious situation, and for the life of me, I cannot fathom how or why the government is proceeding in this way,” she said, arguing that figures released to Sinn Féin showed there was no capacity available in many local authority areas’ emergency accommodation.
She said many working families would face a “nightmare scenario” and government could not answer the question of where they would go if they were evicted. “There is still time for government to do the right thing,” she said, adding that they should row back and reverse the decision.
She told government backbenchers that they should listen to the reaction to the decision.
“Forget even the political view of this, listen to the voices and the stories that all of us have heard. The full focus of atention has to be on those indiviudals and families who are now faced with what all of us know would be a nightmare scenario,” she said. She added that more time was needed to address what she said was an emergency scenario before lifting the ban.
Meanwhile, Fine Gael rounded on Sinn Féin, saying the party was “hypocritical” and released figures which it said showed the party had “objected to, voted against, or attempted to hinder” almost 12,000 homes from being built in Dublin since 2018.
Minister for European Affairs Peter Burke said the party was “attempting to hoodwink the public” with claims they would dramatically boost housing supply in power. He said Ms McDonald had “expressed ‘concerns’ or objected to over 2,000 homes being built in her constituency from 2020 to 2022″.
“Sinn Féin say they are concerned about housing supply and are bringing forward a Dáil motion this week to extend the moratorium on evictions until Christmas, which is reckless and would exacerbate the problem caused by an undersupply of properties,” Mr Burke said.
“What Sinn Féin don’t want you to know about is their own ideological strategy of voting against or lodging objections to projects that would deliver badly needed homes.”