Close shave as Ceann Comhairle uses his tie-breaker
THE Government had a close shave yesterday relying on the casting vote of the Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk to win after seven TDs went missing without permission.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen demanded a report after only 63 of his TDs turned up for a vote on a passing for the revised public spending estimates.
It was the first time the Ceann Comhairle had to use his casting vote in 18 years.
The Government Chief Whip's office named the absent TDs as Fianna Fail backbenchers Tom Kitt, John Browne, Chris Andrews, Niall Collins, Beverly Flynn, Michael Moynihan and MJ Nolan.
However, it subsequently emerged Mr Andrews was sick and had to go to the doctor.
And Mr Nolan said he only missed one of the votes and was there for the tie.
Despite frantic efforts from the Whip's office, the Government lost the original vote by 60 votes to 61 on an electronic ballot. The vote was then retaken with TDs physically walking through the lobbies to cast their votes.
This vote was tied 63-63, meaning one more vote for the opposition would have defeated the Government.
But the defeat would not have brought the coalition down as it was a procedural vote. If a government loses a motion of no confidence or a vote on a financial bill, it automatically collapses the government.
The seven deputies have been written to and summoned to a meeting with Government Chief Whip Pat Carey next Tuesday.
There were 13 more coalition TDs missing, but they were either paired, on official business or had permission.
Bertie Ahern had agreed with the office he would be absent as he was in for the motion of no-confidence in Defence Minister Willie O'Dea.
Junior Ministers Martin Mansergh, Peter Power, Dick Roche and Trevor Sargent were away in Europe on official business.
Darragh O'Brien was paired to attend the Dail Public Accounts Committee.
Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was paired, Junior Minister Tony Killeen was in the Seanad, and backbenchers Frank Fahey, Sean Fleming and Michael Ahern were paired. John McGuinness gave notice to the whip of his absence.