Green Party deputy leader Catherine Martin has described Neasa Hourigan as a “very valuable” member of the party as it remained unclear whether the rebel TD will back the Coalition in Wednesday’s confidence motion in the Dáil.
Dublin Central TD Ms Hourigan has been suspended from the Greens’ parliamentary party for 15 months and also lost all her Oireachtas committee positions after voting against the Government in a motion on the eviction ban last week.
Ms Hourigan continued to support the Coalition during a previous six-month suspension from the Green parliamentary party last year. She has not yet responded to queries on whether she will support the Government in Wednesday’s confidence motion.
The Government has tabled the motion in response to a no-confidence motion put forward by the Labour Party over the Coalition’s handling of the eviction ban issue.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Green Party ministers were asked if Ms Hourigan has told them whether or not she will back the Government in the confidence motion as well as future Dáil votes. Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said: “I don’t believe that any clear indication has been given in terms of Neasa’s approach to the confidence motion tomorrow.”
He added: “We expect that the 11 Green TDs who remain in the parliamentary party will all support that vote.”
Mr O’Gorman said that a “key agreement” secured at Cabinet last week, to bring in a cost-rental “backstop” for renters at risk of homelessness from April 1st, is “really important” to the Green Party to provide a “safety net” for tenants.
Ms Martin said Ms Hourigan made a “very difficult decision” and although she has lost the whip, “I would see her as a very valuable member of the Green Party”. She said Ms Hourigan has been “a prolific parliamentarian” in the work she has done since elected to the Dáil.
On the question of Ms Hourigan’s continued support, Ms Martin added: “I can’t speak for Neasa.”
[ Green Party’s Neasa Hourigan suspended from parliamentary party for 15 months after voting against Government ]
Asked if she would encourage Ms Hourigan to support the Government, Ms Martin said: “I will engage with Neasa on that because I think the confidence motion in Government is about placing the focus where it needs to be – on the supply of housing, on childcare, on what we’re doing for the arts, on the environment and on transport issues.”
She described the no-confidence motion put forward by Labour as a “publicity stunt”, adding: “A general election would serve no one in need in Ireland right now, so I think our focus is on delivery.”
The Government’s official Dáil majority has reduced to one given Ms Hourigan’s suspension from the Green parliamentary party. Defeat of the Government in a confidence motion would spark an election.
The Coalition expects to comfortably win Wednesday’s Dáil vote, however, with the support of Independent TDs that often back the Government.
Ms Martin and Mr O’Gorman were speaking in advance of the launch, along with Minister for Education Norma Foley, of the Government’s new Creative Youth Plan 2023-2027.
Ms Martin said every child and young person had an “innate creativity” and the plan was about how this was nurtured, particularly among children at risk of disadvantage. She said there would be an initial €500,000 over two years to provide a creative youth nurture fund to target children who were “seldom heard” and to get them involved in creativity.
She said around €30 million was spent on initiatives linked to a previous plan, and she expected a similar sum to be spent over the next four years.