Sinn Féin TDs may be asking themselves, did the motion of confidence in Helen McEntee backfire?

McEntee won confidence vote comfortably by a margin of 83 votes to 63, while Sinn Féin was excoriated in debate


The question that no Sinn Féin TD will be asking out loud today, but might be thinking, is: did the motion of confidence in Minister for Justice Helen McEntee backfire?

One by one on Tuesday, Coalition TDs and Ministers stood up to excoriate Sinn Féin in exchanges which at times seemed to create unease on the Sinn Féin benches.

In the end, McEntee won the day comfortably by a margin of 83 votes to 63. Some Independents gave the Government their backing while others, like the Healy Rae brothers and Independent TD Carol Nolan, did not.

The Fine Gael message was that there needs to be proportion and a sense of unity in times of crisis. The charge made against Sinn Féin by Government parties was that tabling the motion represented political opportunism on the back of a night of violence, and that this sows division at a time when Irish politics should collectively shine a light on subversive players who have little regard for democracy or lawfulness.

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The same theme reappeared multiple times, giving us an insight into how this issue might play out during a general election campaign. That message of unity versus division will likely be one we hear again, and in an increasingly fractious world, it will be interesting to see how this plays out with voters. While there were plenty of personal political attacks levelled across the floor of the Dáil on all sides, there is a broader question around which overall argument might linger longest in the minds of the watching public. Is the Government’s argument that a resignation would feed into the hands of the far right an argument that resounds more with people than the Opposition decrying the fact that no one saw the violence coming? At the same time, many people who live or work in Dublin city centre may have nodded in agreement when they heard Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald talk of a “low, relentless hum of danger”.

In his analysis piece this morning, Pat Leahy writes that watching the debate, “you got a sense this was the best day out Fine Gaelers had in the Dáil for ages”.

In any event, the Coalition will be back on the defence this morning on a matter which is not unrelated. The Rural Independent Group will bring a motion in the Dáil at 10am urging an “overhaul” to Ireland’s immigration policies. It is expected that the Government will strongly defend its immigration policies. Keep an eye, as ever, on irishtimes.com for more coverage on these stories today.

Referendum news provokes cool response

It should have been a good news story – but there could be danger ahead on fresh plans for two referendums.

The Cabinet has agreed to hold two referendums on family and care on International Womens’ Day next March after years of opposition to the reference in the Constitution to a woman’s place in the home. But as Jack Horgan-Jones, Mary Carolan and Pat Leahy report, there has been a lukewarm reception to the Constitutional wording of the changes.

The overall decision to hold the referendums has been welcomed by Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), who are expected to campaign for a Yes vote and applauded moves to delete references to a woman’s role in the home. But proposals to reform the constitutional treatment of care fell short of campaigners’ expectations.

Relief in the Department of Finance

There have been sighs of relief in the Department of Finance with the publication of positive financial news in the form of November’s Exchequer tax returns. As Eoin Burke-Kennedy reports, the latest exchequer returns “bulldozed through a raft of predictions that November would signal a major reversal” in corporation tax receipts.

“We will have to reach a tipping point sooner or later but for now Ireland’s tax boom continues,” he writes. Read his full report, including details of which sectors are making up for slower action in others.

And here is The Irish Times view: The out-turn for 2023 gives some reasons for confidence, but significant risks remain

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Playbook

Dáil Éireann

Topical Issues are up just after 9am. The topic of immigration returns to the Dáil floor around 10am with a motion from the Rural Independent Group during Private Members’ Business.

Leaders’ Questions are up at noon with questions from Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Regional Group and the Independent Group. There will be questions on policy and then Taoiseach’s Questions just after lunch. The afternoon will be given over to Government business with statements before next week’s European Council meeting. The gargantuan Planning and Development Bill 2023 will also be debated.

Here is the full Dáil schedule.

Seanad

There is plenty happening in the Seanad today. Commencement Matters are up at 10.30am followed by the Order of Business. At 12.45pm the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill is up. This is an annual Bill to review the risk equalisation mechanism which supports the community-based health insurance market. After this the Human Tissue Bill 2022 reaches committee stage. This would provide for opt out organ donation for the first time.

The Policing, Security and Community Safety Bill will also be discussed. During Private Members’ Business at 5.15pm, Fianna Fáil Senators Fiona O’Loughlin and Lisa Chambers will bring the Sex Offenders (Amendment) (Coercive Control) Bill 2023. This Bill proposes to create a domestic violence register that would allow women with concerns to ask An Garda Síochána for information about a partner’s violent past.

Here is the full Seanad schedule.

Committee picks

Expect to see some big name companies in the committee rooms today. At 1.30pm, the Committee on Tourism and Media will hold a hearing with Meta, TikTok and Google looking at online disinformation. At 5.30pm, the Committee on Children will meet HSE officials to discuss access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. At the same time the Committee on Budgetary Oversight will meet Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe to discuss budgetary overruns. Expect talk of the gaping budgetary hole in the Department of Health.

The best of the rest can be found on the committees schedule.

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