Government defeats no-confidence motion by 86 votes to 67

Cowen faces criticism after comparing extension of eviction ban to making sweets free for children

Eviction Ban

The Government has won a vote on a motion of confidence in the Dáil by a majority of 86 votes to 67.

The Labour Party tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government, with the Coalition tabling a counter motion of confidence which was carried in the House on Wednesday morning.

Independent TDs Cathal Berry, Seán Canney, Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish, Denis Naughten and Matt Shanahan voted with the Government as did Marc MacSharry, former Fianna Fáil TD.

Green TD Neasa Hourigan, who is suspended from the parliamentary party for 15 months after voting against the Coalition last week, voted with the Government.


Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said the debate had been “a disgrace” with constant heckling and interruptions between Government and Opposition benches.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has faced criticism for his remarks during the debate where he said extending the eviction ban would be like “making sweets free for children”.

“It’s fine for a little while but ultimately detrimental to the greater need,” he said.

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said his remark was “disgraceful”, while Sinn Fein TD Réada Cronin said the comment illustrated the “paternalistic arrogance” of the Government.

Speaking after the debate, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy said the comments were “patronising and deeply offensive. They reflect the thinking of a government which considers secure housing as a treat as opposed to a basic human right.”

Social Democrats TD Cian O’Callaghan said the remarks showed “a despicable lack of compassion” and called for Mr Cowen to apologise.

“Government T.D.s may be far removed from the pressures that renters faced - however these comments are a new low. They are completely out of touch with the reality that renters getting notices to quit face,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Labour Party’s motion was “political theatre, performative anger and performance art”. Mr Varadkar said if the Opposition was successful in winning the vote, the Dáil would have been dissolved this afternoon, with an election in April and could be “well into the summer” before there would be an elected Government.

The Fine Gael leader said Labour’s motion was about “competition for attention” on the Opposition benches. Mr Varadkar also said Labour leader Ivana Bacik’s solution of one million homes in 10 years was “a nice promise”.

“When asked how that number was arrived at or how it was realised, the leader of the Labour Party had no answers,” he said. “When pressed, she [Ms Bacik] took a page straight out of the book of Sinn Féin - ‘sure aren’t the Irish great at building things’, she quipped. “We heard that before. We all know where the figure of one million promised new homes came from, it’s a round number, that’s all and there is a conference speech to be made - Tesco ad 2.0.”

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said the debate had shown that the Opposition had “abandoned any effort to offer a comprehensive alternative” and instead offered “empty soundbites”. Mr Martin said the Labour Party had adopted a strategy of “trying to match others for angry rhetoric and empty promises”. “Just like other left parties, it [Labour] remains so terrified of Sinn Féin’s troll army that it is increasingly incapable of presenting a distinct position from that party on any matter,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said during Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s time in Government, “we have gone from housing crisis to housing emergency to housing disaster”.

Ms McDonald said the “housing crisis didn’t fall from the sky” and the Government had followed an agenda that “explicitly transferred” their responsibility to deliver housing to the private market.

The Dublin Central TD said only a change of Government would solve the housing crisis and that Sinn Féin wished to lead that Government.

Ms McDonald said Irish people deserved better than the “stranglehold of this perpetual housing crisis” and “better than Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael”. “You have had your chance and you have failed - you’re out of ideas, you’re out of touch, you’re out of time and now is the time for others to be given the chance to show what we can do,” she said. “It’s time for change, the longer that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael remain in Government, the more damage they will do. We need a general election, and the sooner the better.”

Ms Bacik said that the Taoiseach had engaged in “some political theatrics” himself in spending more time attacking Labour than in setting out solutions.

“You just don’t have the answers, your conservative coalition is just not working. It’s all spin and no substance,” she said.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said there would be more votes of no confidence in the Government as “time is running out for this Government”. “The people it [the Government] has failed on housing have had enough, they lost confidence a long time ago and it isn’t coming back,” she said. “They have no confidence in the Government’s ability to solve the housing disaster. They have no confidence in your plans, no confidence in your promises.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times