Eviction ban vote shows why Government is more stable than it may appear

Coalition has shown it can rely on Independents to bolster its razor-thin majority

Dáil stock images Micheál Martin Pearse Doherty general shot
The Government is likely to win Labour's no-confidence motion comfortably because of the support of independents.

In the end, it wasn’t even close.

The Government won the Dáil vote on the eviction ban 83 to 68 – a comfortable margin of 15.

Predictions on Tuesday within Government that the margin could be between four and six – seen as bullish at the time – look sheepish when it came to the Dáil vote 24 hours later.

Labour is set to table a no-confidence motion in the Government next week due to its decision on ending the eviction ban.


But confidence votes are high-stakes, potentially election-sparking events that tend to see Independent politicians who do not want to go to the country just yet rally around the Government.

It can be expected that the margin of the Coalition’s victory will be even higher if there is a confidence vote.

Eviction ban: Five key concessions made by Coalition to secure Independent supportOpens in new window ]

Green TD Neasa Hourigan’s rebellion in voting with the Opposition has cut the Coalition’s paper majority to one.

But once again Wednesday evening’s vote shows the Government has been able to rely on a string of Independents to ensure it got safely over the line.

Another Green Party TD, Patrick Costello, who had been keeping his cards close to his chest in recent days and lost the whip for six months last year for voting against the Government, stayed onside on this occasion.

The Greens’ TDs and Senators met late into the evening to consider what sanctions Ms Hourigan will face.

It was decided that she was to be suspended from the parliamentary party for 15 months and stripped of her place on Oireachtas committees including her €10,082 a year role as Oireachtas budgetary oversight committee chair.

Letters: Readers respond to Sally Rooney’s article on evictions and the housing crisisOpens in new window ]

It means little, however, if there remains a reliable clutch of independents willing to bolster the Government’s numbers, even if only on a case-by-case basis.

One thing that will be interesting to watch over the coming months is the extent to which the Government will have to take on board policy proposals – or even constituency demands – from Independents to keep them onside.

Wednesday’s Dáil vote was prompted by a Sinn Féin motion seeking to extend the ban on evictions until January 2024.

The Government tabled a lengthy countermotion standing over the decision and setting out measures it is taking to help renters.

The counter motion at least partially included eight “asks” from the Regional Independent Group.

The Coalition benches even voted to included a RIG amendment to the Government’s counter motion that contained their demands for good measure.

In the end five members of the RIG, Seán Canney, Denis Naughten, Michael Lowry, Cathal Berry and Matt Shanahan, voted with the Government while two, Verona Murphy and Peter Fitzpatrick, voted against and another RIG deputy, Noel Grealish, was not present.

Sally Rooney: Renters are being exploited and evictions must be stoppedOpens in new window ]

Kerry Independent Danny Healy-Rae was a surprise vote in favour of the Government counter motion while Donegal TD Joe McHugh – who last year resigned the Fine Gael whip over the Mica issue – also backed the Coalition.

The Government’s ability to rely on Independent TDs is evidently causing some frustration on the Opposition benches.

In advance of Wednesday’s votes Labour’s Ged Nash addressed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asking: “How much has it cost the Government to buy the votes of the Regional Independent Group to enable you to evict thousands of people from their homes?”

Expect to hear many more of these kinds of accusations in the weeks and months ahead given the Government’s now even more razor-thin paper majority.

But also expect the Coalition to be able to motor on regardless.