‘Shockingly harsh’: Green Party councillors criticise sanction imposed on Neasa Hourigan

Minister of State Pippa Hackett says Coalition has safe majority should confidence votes arise over ending eviction ban

A number of Green Party councillors have criticised the party’s TDs and Senators over the decision to suspend Neasa Hourigan for 15 months for voting against the Government.

In a statement on Wednesday night, issued after Ms Hourigan supported a Sinn Féin motion to extend the eviction ban, the Greens said the parliamentary party had agreed to remove the party whip from the Dublin Central deputy and impose the suspension. The sanction will also see Ms Hourigan lose her Oireachtas committee positions.

“The parliamentary party regrets having to take these steps but believes that effectiveness in Government relies on unity in every vote,” it said.

Cork-based Green Party councillor Oliver Moran said he was “gravely disappointed at the decision” to sanction Ms Hourigan. He said the decision was “taken without due notice, while Neasa was chairing an Oireachtas committee and so (was) unable to be at the meeting”.


He also described the length and severity of the sanction as “gratuitous and self-defeating”.

Fingal-based councillor Karen Power said: “Let’s not forget, a key selling point for entering Government was to be there, at the table, to proactively criticise from within, when Government policy differed from our own. Fast forward, criticise and suffer the the disproportionate consequences.”

‘Shockingly harsh’

Ms Power also said the parliamentary party “should be ashamed” at such a “disproportionate and shockingly harsh punishment”.

Former TD Dan Boyle, now a Cork councillor, said he felt the suspension was too long and that Ms Hourigan should be allowed to retain her committee memberships.

“I hope a mechanism to appeal these elements exists,” he said on Twitter.

East Cork Green Party councillor Liam Quaide said “our parliamentary party has got its values tragically askew”.

Wicklow councillor Lourda Scott said it was a “desperately poor decision”, while former lord mayor Hazel Chu said on Twitter that it was a ”deeply disappointing and excessively harsh decision”.

Members of the parliamentary party supported the suspension on Thursday, which came after the Government defeated the Sinn Féin motion by 83 votes to 68. However, the Coalition is expected to face further related Dáil votes in the coming weeks.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said a motion of no confidence in the Government next week “will be defeated by a significant margin, it is largely political theatre”.


Minister of State and Senator Pippa Hackett said the Coalition needs all its TDs “on side” and it was unfortunate that Ms Hourigan had voted with the Opposition. The Government won the vote comfortably with support from a number of Independent TDs who have secured a series of concessions around housing matters in return.

“We need to have a functioning majority and we need all our TDs on board. That means voting with the good votes, the easy votes, and also with the tough ones like last night,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.

Ms Hackett acknowledged that this was the third time that Ms Hourigan had voted against the Government. When asked if there was a “three strikes and you’re out” policy in the Green Party, she said no but that a suspension of 15 months was “a significant period of time”.

Ms Hackett said Ms Hourigan would be “more than welcome back if she’s interested” after the suspension.

“And I think at the end of the day, it has been a distraction for Government. It has been a distraction for our party. The Green Party has achieved a lot in Government. It wants to continue to do that. We need all our TDs onside and you know, we look forward to regrouping and moving forward,” she said, describing the TD’s move as “unfortunate”.

“I understand where she’s coming from in a personal capacity. At the end of the day, though, we are in Government, we are a political party and we do want to achieve our policy in Government.”

Safe majority

On the possibility of future no confidence votes in the Coalition over the eviction ban ending, Ms Hackett said she felt it had a safe majority.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of homeless charity De Paul, David Carroll, said a new acquisition delivery team being set up within the Department of Housing will have a crucial role to play in the coordination of emergency accommodation services when the eviction ban ends next month.

He told RTÉ's Morning Ireland that the team will have a vital role to play in helping people to overcome bureaucratic hurdles. Getting information to tenants and landlords would be crucial, he said, with the Residential Tenancies Board predicting up to 7,000 may have to be vacated as a result of the measure ending.

“How many of them translate into actual people presenting for temporary accommodation is uncertain. And that’s why I think at this moment in time there is a huge emphasis for us on what the short term measures that need to be put into place in order to preserve that.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Vivienne Clarke

Vivienne Clarke is a reporter