Nobody expected the Government to lose yesterday’s confidence vote but, judging from the reaction of Coalition TDs last night, the comfortable majority it had certainly bolstered morale and cemented the belief this Government will last.
Those could be famous last words given the slings and arrows that go along with politics. But confidence (of mood rather than a Dáil vote) is an essential component of politics and the Coalition got plenty of that, too, yesterday. Not quite as dramatic as Monaghan defying the world and somehow surviving in Division One of the National Football League but the same satisfying feeling.
As Pat Leahy and Sarah Burns report in our main politics story: “Six Independent TDs, as well as former Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Greens TDs who have resigned or lost the whip, voted with the Government to give a 19-vote majority when the division was called shortly before noon. The Government won the vote – on a Government amendment expressing confidence to a Labour Party motion expressing no-confidence – by 86 votes to 67, with no abstentions.”
As Leahy and Burns point out, that’s an illustration of the enduring security of the Coalition despite having a majority of only one on paper. With others, its “effective working majority is nearer to 20 votes”.
The confidence the result bolstered was evident at the parliamentary party meetings last night. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael meeting that the Government was built to last and would serve its full term. He did concede there needs to be faster progress on housing.
Similarly the Fianna Fáil meeting was addressed by Tánaiste Micheál Martin who said it would allow his party to continue to focus on getting results.
What was noticeable about the debate yesterday was the edge to it. Coalition speakers honed in on Labour and the scornfulness and spikiness of its criticism took listeners by surprise. The theme was similar from a long list of speakers. Used to respect the Labour Party. Not any more. Have gone down the Sinn Féin and Social Democrats route of holier-than-thou populism. The claim to provide 1 million homes in a decade is a joke. The latter issue, Ivana Bacik’s promise on housing at the national convention at the weekend, was the main focus of its attack.
Still, Labour will take something from it. The party has been struggling to assert itself since 2020 and this certainly did get attention. It also got its own bits of spikiness in, not least from Ged Nash: “The antics of the Government, with its grubby little side deals with the cheap dates in the so-called Independent ranks, will live in infamy. Transparency has been sacrificed on the altar of those grubby little side hustles.”
'Northern Ireland has moved on' - Fintan O'Toole on 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement
Army of Dishonour
In the main lead today, Jennifer Bray continues her reporting on the Women of Honour issue. She reports that members of the Defence Forces who make allegations of sexual assault will have their complaint referred to gardaí rather than the internal military police.
To achieve that, the Coalition will shortly move to amend the Defence Act 1954 to provide a legislative basis for the changes, so that allegations of any type of sexual assault in the Defence Forces will be dealt with by gardaí.
That is a significant move, given the Defence Forces’ tradition of independence from the Garda, which included its remit to have, essentially, an internal police force, with military tribunes.
She also reports that a new statutory inquiry will be likely led by a judge or former judge, and will potentially be public. A motion to establish the inquiry could be brought before the Dáil before the summer recess.
Transgender Issues to be Discussed at National Level
One surprising development last night was the decision by Fine Gael to hold a full discussion on transgender issues. As Jack Horgan-Jones reports the use was brought up at the parliamentary party meeting last night, with a commitment to hold a full discussion on it. It is a complex and divisive area. There are few issues like it that polarise opinion. Paul Kehoe from Wexford said he had received more emails on trans issues than on the eviction ban.
As Jack reports, the complexity of the issue was discussed, with some contributors unsure how to address it. The Taoiseach, who last week commented on the issue of trans women in woman prisons, said it was “better to discuss the issue than not” but noted the topic had been polarising opinion in the United States and in Britain.
I was doing live coverage of the entire confidence debate yesterday and I can say with certainty that Miriam Lord’s column really nails the tenor of the whole thing as well as its most ribald moments.
In an oped piece, Finn McRedmond says that after the likes of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump the return of ‘boring’ politicians such as Rishi Sunak might be a positive development.
Jack Horgan-Jones reports on Roderic O’Gorman hitting back hard in the Seanad at the implied criticism of Senator Sharon Keoghan that he was displaying a form of parochialism in allowing a virement (transfer of funds) to LGBTQ+ NGOs. “During ill-tempered clashes in the Seanad today, he said there was an effort under way to “engage in outright misinformation” by members of both the Dáil and the Seanad. Senator Sharon Keogan had raised the transfer of €1.1 million - which was originally allocated to schemes for the Traveller and Roma communities, migrant integration and Magdalene laundry redress - to gay and trans’ rights advocacy groups. She said the funding decisions had led to “accusations of you having engaged in a sort of ideology-based parochialism” and “prioritising pet projects”.
9.00am: Questions to Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman
10.30am: Questions to Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris
12.00pm: Leaders’ Questions to be taken by Tánaiste Micheál Martin
1.45pm: Statements on Government Supports for the Irish Sheep Sector
4.10pm: Statements on the Report of the Independent Review Group on Dignity and Equality Issues in the Defence Forces
6.00pm: Topical Issues
6.48pm: Private Members’ Bill Taisceadán (Valuable Property Register) Bill 2019 – Second Stage
8.03pm: Dáil adjourns
9.30am: Commencement Matters
10.30am: Order of Business
11.45am: Health (Amendment) Bill 2023 – Committee and Remaining Stages (Department of Health)
11.45am: Private Members’ Business: Seanad Electoral (University Members) (Amendment) Bill 2020 – Committee Stage (Senators Malcolm Byrne, Pat Casey, Shane Cassells)
09.30am: Committee of Public Accounts: Appropriation Account 2021 – Vote 42, Rural and Community Development.
Representatives from the Department of Rural and Community Development and Officials from Pobal
09.30am: Joint Committee on Disability Matters: Leave no one behind: Climate crisis and disability.
1.30pm: Joint Committee on Public Petitions: Press Council of Ireland and Office of the Press Ombudsman Annual Report and related matters 2021 with representatives from the Office of the Press Ombudsman, Susan McKay, Press Ombudsman