Coalition to rally behind Helen McEntee ahead of packed political week

Minister for Justice faces motion of confidence in Dáil this afternoon in light of riots in Dublin


A busy week lies ahead for Ministers who are due to travel to Brussels, Dubai and Saudi Arabia, but today all eyes will be on Minister for Justice Helen McEntee who faces a motion of confidence in the Dáil.

The motion has been tabled by Sinn Féin in light of the looting and violence which followed an attack on young schoolchildren in Dublin city centre last month.

The debate and vote are due to take place today at 3.50pm and while McEntee can expect to be lambasted by the Opposition for her handling of the crisis, she is also expected to survive comfortably. She has the backing of her fellow Cabinet members who will rally behind her, as well as the support of her Coalition partners. A number of Independent TDs have also said they do not believe that now is the time for a general election, and with just two weeks to go until the summer recess they are not the only ones in Leinster House who dread such a prospect.

The charge being made by Sinn Féin is that McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris were not adequately prepared for the outbreak of violence. The Government, meanwhile, has dismissed the motion as a “stunt” and said politicians should be united in tackling the threat posed by the far-right. Here’s a primer on the motion, and you can follow irishtimes.com for live updates throughout the afternoon.

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Cabinet meets

There are a few substantial items on the Cabinet agenda this morning, including a memo being brought by McEntee around extradition and the United Arab Emirates.

The Minister will seek Cabinet approval to open negotiations on new extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties.

The Irish Times previously reported that senior Garda officers are concerned at the failed efforts to extradite Dublin criminals from places such as Dubai, including figures who were named by the Irish and American authorities as being at the apex of the Kinahan cartel.

Exchequer nerves, business grants and referendum plans

There are a number of other significant developments expected today. The first is the publication of Exchequer figures. There has been much nervousness in the Department of Finance about November’s tax returns. It is the biggest month for the payment of many taxes, including corporation tax, and another big fall on the back of last month’s statistics could blow a hole in the Government’s fiscal arithmetic.

Secondly, Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman is finally due to bring the wording of a proposed referendum that would remove the Constitutional reference to a woman’s place in the home. It is understood there will be two questions, one on the removal of the reference to women’s place in the home which will also include a recognition of care, and the second on broadening the definition of family. The referendum is slated to take place next year on March 8th – International Women’s Day.

Separately, Fine Gael is making a play for the business vote with an announcement expected on a €250 million package of supports for those struggling with increased costs.

Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney will unveil the new Increased Cost of Business scheme which will see grants reach 95 per cent of rateable businesses totalling 143,000 businesses across the country. Businesses that paid up to €10,000 in rates will receive a payment equivalent to a 50 per cent return. Businesses who paid between €10,000-€30,000 will receive a once-off payment of €5,000 each.

North and South

Pat Leahy has the latest from his North and South series, as part of a research collaboration between ARINS and The Irish Times. He reports that just over half of all voters in the Republic say that a united Ireland would be “costly in the short-term but beneficial in the long-term”. But views across the Border differ substantially, with just half of that number (26 per cent) sharing the view that unity would have short-term costs and long-term benefits.

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Playbook

Dáil Éireann

Leaders’ Questions are up at 2pm. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will take questions at 3.05pm before the main set piece of the day at 3.50pm when the motion of confidence in McEntee will be debated. The whole thing is expected to last around 2½ hours. Sinn Féin will then bring a motion on renters after 7pm, where they will call for a three-year ban on rent increases, and then there will be Topical Issues. The Dáil is scheduled to adjourn at 11.34pm.

Seanad

The main piece of business of the day will be a debate on the Public Health (Tobacco Products and Nicotine Inhaling Products) Bill 2023 scheduled for 1.15pm. The Bill seeks to introduce a licensing system for retail sales of tobacco and e-cigarettes. It also seeks to ban sales from mobile premises and vending machines, and to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to under 18 year olds.

Here is the full and detailed schedule for the Seanad.

Committee pick – The 650th day of war

The Foreign Affairs Committee will today hear from the ambassador of Ukraine to Ireland H.E Larysa Gerasko as well as the chair of Ukraine’s foreign affairs committee Verkhovna Rada. Speaking in advance of the meeting, committee chairman and Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan said today “marks the 650th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and untold devastation. Thousands of Ukrainians have sought refuge in Ireland while we also continue to provide humanitarian assistance.”

Of course, his comments come after it emerged on Monday that the International Protection Accommodation Service will likely start having to turn away some asylum seekers due to a lack of beds. The Department is currently providing accommodation to 100,000 people, including 74,000 fleeing Ukraine and 26,000 International Protection applicants. Tánaiste Michael Martin said it “is not that simple” to provide housing “overnight” for refugees and asylum seekers. So what’s going to happen? Well, the Cabinet will today discuss plans to give a weekly payment of €75 to asylum seekers who find themselves without accommodation. Expect to hear more about this throughout the day.

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