Welcome to the Irish Times’ coverage of today’s confidence motion as the Government seeks to bolster what Pat Leahy calls a “flimsy majority” in his preview of the day’s events.
The first vote of the day has taken place with the Government defeating Labour’s no-confidence motion by 86 votes to 67.
- Later in the evening, the Government will face its second major challenge of the day: Sinn Féin legislation identical to the existing eviction ban but with the dates changed. This will put Independents into a position where they must “actually vote against legislation which would extend the ban”.
- What will happen? “The Opposition won’t win the votes and even if it did it wouldn’t stop the ban lapsing on Saturday,” Pat predicts, but it is set to be a gruelling day for the Government nonetheless.
Follow proceedings on the Dáil video feed here and see our updates below:
Our Dáil liveblog has ended for now but will resume later this afternoon when the Government will face its second major challenge of the day: Sinn Féin legislation identical to the existing eviction ban but with the dates changed. You can read back through the earlier entries to the blog by scrolling down.
Read over the morning’s events at a glance in Sarah Burns’ report from Dáil Éireann amid heated exchanges and a pass with flying colours for the Government in the first challenge of the day.
The debate is now over and the Government has survived, even though nobody thought there was any prospect of a defeat. The debate was rowdy and bad-tempered at time. One surprising element was the tenor of the Government attack on the Labour Party, which was more splenetic than anticipated.
86 to 67
Sean O Fearghail has confirmed it just now. The vote is 86 to 67, a margin of 19 votes.
Looks like the vote is 86 to 67 in favour of the Government. Not as big a gap as the vote last week but still relatively comfortable. Has yet to be official confirmed.
With the exception of former Fianna Fáil TD, Marc MacSharry, all the the other independents have voted against the Government including Verona Murphy and Peter Fitzpatrick.
It looks like the Government will have a relatively comfortable majority.
Now going through the Opposition parties, who have voted Níl to a member.
Cathal Berry has voted Yes, as has Sean Canney, Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry, Denis Naughten, and Matt Shanahan. That guarantees a Government win.
Now going through the Green Party list. Neasa Hourigan has expressed confidence in the Government. It will be interesting to see how she votes in the Sinn Féin motion on the eviction ban later this afternoon.
So there is a set time allowed, which gives TDs a chance to get into the chamber and vote. At the moment the chamber is packed with Deputies, who are chatting among themselves waiting for the vote to conclude. Ceann Comhairle is now asking members to move to their designated seats. The vote will now take place by roll call. The thing to look out for is if any Government TD opposes the motion, and how the Independent TDs vote. All the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs have voted for the Government motion.
The debate is ended and the motion will now be put to a vote.
Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said the the “debate had been a disgrace with constant heckling and interruptions.”
He asked for the TÁ and NÍL declarations and said the vote had been carried.
Now it is going to an electronic vote.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin is now closing he debate on behalf of the Government parties ahead of the vote. Like so many other Government speakers, the approach to his argument has been to describe the Labour Party as a once-responsible party which has now gone down the populist route, and also dismissing the 1 million houses claim made at the party conference.
“Just like other left parties it remains so terrified of Sinn Féin’s troll army that it is unable to arrive at it now position on any issue,” he claimed.
He said the housing pledge lacked credibility. Martin devotes a lot of his time to detailing the record of Government and accusing the Opposition of dissembling and populism.
The debate has been riddled by interruptions and slagging matches across the benches with speakers being shouted down. Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen described trying to speak with all the the heckling as being like a contestant on Countdown.
There have been some far-fetched metaphors drawn in. Hildegarde Naughton quoted Voltaire, in French, as it happens. Mick Barry of People Before Profit laboured a little on a comparison with Will Smith, the Hollywood actor, who, he said, would be forever remembered as “the guy who ran onto the stage at the Oscars and socked the presenter on the jaw”.
The rural TDS have been speaking in the last few minutes and all chose to go on a double whammy attack, condemning the Green Party in Government, and then, in the same breath, condemning the Labour Party.
“The pup is dragging the horse around the field,” said Micheal Fitzmaurice when talking of the Greens.
Danny Healy Rae also spoke on behalf, he said, of all the people in Kerry who had built houses in the remote “glens and hills and valleys” despite the Greens telling them what they could and could not do.
His brother, Michael Healy Rae, lambasted the Labour Party saying he should not have confidence in it “building eight houses, never mind one million”.
There have been discernible themes evident in the exchanges this morning. The Opposition have portrayed the Government as uncaring and out of touch, and in thrall to investment funds and International investors. The Government has responded with an unexpectedly flinty and edgy attack on the Labour Party. From a tactical perspective, it has particularly focused on the Labour claim it could provide 1 million homes, and has presented that argument as a departure of Labour from responsible opposition to the populism and crowd-pleasing approach of Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and People Before Profit.
Minister of State James Browne was another Government TD who spared the niceties with a strident attack on Labour. He ran through some of its rhetoric and promises when in Opposition pre 2011 and claimed: “You broke all your promises.”
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has decided that the best means of defence is attack. His contribution to the debate has been an unrelenting criticism of Sinn Féin and its housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin as well as on the Social Democrats and its spokesman Cian O’Callaghan.
He has described Sinn Fein as serial objectors and interrupters and has claimed it has voted against all the Government schemes to help people find homes, including the Help to Buy scheme and the vacant homes scheme.
O’Brien has also claimed the the contribution of the Opposition spokespeople to the debate has been “sloganeering and vitriol”.
He took issue with the claim that the Government side lacked compassion was “shameful and disgraceful”.
Addressing Louise O’Reilly, who shares his constituency, he argued that a councillor form her party had opposed a development of 1,200 houses in Donabate, which included over 500 social and affordable houses.
In tandem with other Government Ministers, he has criticised the Labour Party’s claim of providing 1 million homes in ten years.
“People will see through it,” he has said. “Do not go down the road that Sinn Féín has gone where it is opposed to every measure.”
Government Chief Whip Hildegard Naughton has followed with a cutting attack on the Labour Party saying: “I remember when the Labour Party stood for something.”
The most powerful contribution of the debate so far has been made by Louise O’Reilly of Sinn Fein. She instances the case of a woman, a widow with four children, who lives in Skerries and who is facing eviction in the next few weeks.
Addressing Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and Minister for State Joe O’Brien, both of whom are TDs in her constituency she asks them what options does the widow have, saying it is either a hostel or homelessness.
In a direct question to Joe O’Brien, she asks several times with a rising crescendo of anger: “Where is she going Joe.”
She directs the same question at Darragh O’Brien, saying the only “blood safety net” that will work is to reverse the decision to end the eviction ban.
Colin Gleeson reports on comments from Green Party leader Éamon Ryan at at Inchicore Railway Works in Dublin this morning to the effect the Government has the numbers to win the confidence vote when the Dáil divides at 11.45.
“We had a margin last week,” he said. “We’ll set out the various measures the Government are introducing to address what is a real issue and a real concern to all our people.”
Social Democrats Leader Holly Cairns is another of the many speakers who have relied on a script. In a relatively low-key contribution she has asserted that the Government does not care.
Responding to Eamon Ryan’s description of the tenant in situ scheme as a “safety net”, she has portrayed it as a “half-baked scheme that it optimistically described as a safety net for renters.”
This, she has said, " is just more gaslighting”.
The Green Party, she has claimed, has had a “Marie Antoinette moment, let them eat cakes when they masses cannot eat bread”.
There have been a series of heated exchanges in the past few minutes with Leas Ceann Comhairle Catherine Connolly having to intervene.
Green Party leader Éamon Ryan and Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin got involved in a verbal altercation after Ryan claimed that nobody in the Opposition had mentioned the “safety net” the Government introduced last week to soften the blow of the eviction ban.
Challenged as to what the safety net was, Ryan said that if somebody on social welfare was a risk of eviction because a landlord was departing the market, he said that local authorities now have the power to step in and purchase properties with tenants in situ.
He claimed that there were “no limits” to the funding available for that protection. That might not be quite right.
And then there was a spat between Minister for Justice Simon Harris and Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of the Labour Party who objected to Harris’s attack on Labour’s claim that it could provide one million homes in a decade. When the Labour TD pointed at Harris during the exchange, he replied.
“You are not a múinteoir any more. Stop wagging your finger at me. Stop objecting to homes in your constituency.”
David Cullinane of Sinn Féin followed up the shouting with a considered speech, relating the difficulties of tenants facing eviction. He also portrayed the government as a “cosseted privileged class” that welcomed institutional investors into Ireland.
The tenor of the contributions from Government Ministers was that it had been irresponsible in bringing the motion. They also focused in on her claim that Labour in government would build 1 million homes in ten years.
She strongly responded to the criticism saying the Government spent “more time lambasting the Labour Party than setting out what it achieved.”
She said the reality was that the evictions ban ends in three days time. “You have engaged in having the wrong policy choices, choices that will be disastrous and catastrophic for families who are facing the prospect of eviction.”
She continues: “Your policy has failed and that is why we have tabled a motion of no confidence.”
She has claimed the the Government is “all spin and no substance”.
She stands over her claim that the Labour Party policy of providing 1 million homes will be achieved, saying that this is the scale of ambition that is required. She has also pointed out that half of those will be new builds and half of those will be retrofits.
Eoin Ó Broin, Sinn Féin’s spokesman on housing honed in on the figures, particularly the homeless figures, which have been rising in the past year.
He said there had been a 40 per cent increase in homelessness during Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien’s time, and a 56 per cent increase in child homelessness.
“this is the biggest increase in decade,” he said, adding: “Shame on him”.
Ó Broin queried the Government headline figure of having built 30,000 homes last year but he said that even if it hit the target, the real target required was closer to 50,000 units a year.
The Opposition response is led by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald whose speech is an unremitting attack on Government housing policy. She begins by saying that successive Governments haas meant that people seeking a home have been “living on hold for a generation”.
“There is a claustrophobic and stifling atmosphere that people fee that no matter how hard they work and no matter how much they save and sacrifice, they cannot get a future.”
She says that how Government Ministers can look people in the eye and say that housing policies are working is “beyond me”.
In her most cutting remark, she says the message the Government is sending to a generation is: “Nero fiddles while Rome burns.”
Ms McDonald says that from day one a Sinn Féin Government will build tens of thousands of houses on public land, cut the red tape and inter, and harness new technologies.
The early stages of the confidence debate have featured Government speakers. Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys followed the Taoiseach. The strategy of the Coalition seems to be two-fold - to list the achievements of Government in housing and to specifically hone in by the promise of Ivana Bacik that her party in government would provide 1 million homes. Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, like Humphreys, has talked about his respect for the Labour Party but then followed up with an attack on the promise, first outlined at the Labour Party convention in Cork at the weekend.
“I listen to you with a sense of worry,” he addresses Labour leader Ivana Bacik across the chamber. “The claim that you can deliver one million homes is based on what, on what land and with what money?” he asks.
“It deepens the sense of disenchantment rather than offering any solution.”
Leo Varadkar is speaking at the moment and after an opening passage defending the Government’s record he has gone for the jugular.
He has accused both Sinn Fein and the Labour Party of indulging in “utopian and populist” politics.
He has honed in particularly on Labour Leader Ivana Bacik’s promise to deliver 1 million homes in 10 years.
“That is a page straight out of the book of Sinn Féin. When asked how that could be done the Labour Party leader (Ivana Bacik) said ‘Sure are not the Irish great at building houses.”
Mr Varadkar gave his own opinion on how the figure was arrived at.
“It’s a round number and there was a conference speech to be made.
“It is the Tesco ad 2.0.”
He rounds off his speech by saying that the housing crisis will be overcome and the Government will build on the progress he says it has made in the past two years.
During the course of his speech, he acknowledges that there is a shortage of 250,000 homes in Ireland, a criss caused by smaller family sizes and what he has described as the “scarring effect” of the construction, fiscal and banking crashes.
“Solving the housing crisis is therefore on elf the greatest political and practical challenges of our time. Indeed it is an imperative,” he says, arguing that the State built more houses last year than any year since 1975.
It’s Harry McGee. Only ten minutes to go before the debate begins. The format will be simple. The motion of no confidence was tabled by Labour but the Government turned the table (as it always does with such motions) and submitted a counter motion expressing confidence in the Government. Thus it will be Government speakers first, including the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien followed by Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik. The debate will conclude about 11.45pm with the vote taking place immediately afterwards.
Ivana Bacik, the Labour leader who is putting down the motion of no confidence, appeared on RTÉ's Morning Ireland justifying the decision.
“It is absolutely the responsibility of Opposition to hold Government to account,” she said. “We do not put down this motion lightly and indeed we put a lot of thought and a lot of preparation into it.
“It’s over 20 years since a Labour motion of no confidence was debated in the Dáil. This is not something we took up lightly, but we have a responsibility to those who are contacting us, those renters, those families like the young mother who contacted me in despair because she has nowhere else to go with her children. Next week, like the homeless and workers of the local authority, officials who are desperately concerned to know where they’re going to put families when the eviction ban starts to take effect from Saturday because they have no emergency accommodation left. So this is absolutely a necessary thing to do because we have no choice but to shut down the government about the need to respond.”
Miriam Lord sets the scene for today’s debate with a riveting read on terse exchanges between Leo Varadkar and the Opposition yesterday on the upcoming confidence debate.
“Varadkar’s message to non-SF members of the Opposition was stark: Collapse my Coalition and you will bring down the 33rd Dáil, precipitate a premature general election and, in all likelihood, lose out to a shoo-in Shinner who will scoff your seat with pleasure.”