Saturday 3 December 2016

Government suffers first defeat in the Dáil 'in more than 25 years'

Published 01/06/2016 | 21:55

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

The Government has suffered its first defeat in the Dáil in a vote on a Labour motion on workers rights.

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According to the Labour Party it's the first loss by a government in this manner for more than 25 years.

The minority government's amendment to the Labour proposal was defeated 78 votes to 58, with some Fianna Fáil TDs voting alongside Labour, Sinn Féin and AAA-PBB among others.

The Labour motion - which seeks a series of new protections for workers including a significant increases in the minimum wage and a living wage of €11.50 per hour throughout the public sector - was accepted without a vote.

The result will come as a blow to the government which had sought to amend the Labour proposal in line with the Programme for Government.

And it's the first demonstration that Fianna Fáil won't abstain on votes in order to facilitate government plans.

The new Fine Gael Cabinet pictured at Aras an Uachtarain after receiving their seals of office
The new Fine Gael Cabinet pictured at Aras an Uachtarain after receiving their seals of office

The government version of the motion that promised to respond to any recommendations of the Low Pay Commission was roundly defeated.

A Labour Party spokesman last night said the party was "delighted" if "slightly surprised" at the result.

He said it's the first time a government has been defeated in this manner since the government of Charles Haughey lost a vote over care for people with haemophilia that contracted HIV from infected blood products.

Back then, the current Labour leader Brendan Howlin moved a Private Members Motion calling for the establishment of a IR£400,000 trust fund for such patients.

Deputy Brendan Howlin.
Deputy Brendan Howlin.

Mr Haughey's goverment was defeated on the issue, which in part led to the 1989 General Election.

Tonight's Private Members Motion on workers' rights sought to tackle what leader Brendan Howlin described as “insecure hours and enforced, bogus self-employment".

In making the motion the Mr Howlin highlighted the cases of the former Clerys department store workers, who lost their jobs without notice almost a year ago and which resulted in the taxpayer having to pay statutory redundancy.

He said that such a scenario “cannot happen again”.

Some of the Clery’s workers were in the gallery in Leinster House to watch proceedings tonight.

An amendment by the AAA-PBP which included a provision that the minimum wage be increased to €12 an hour this year was defeated 104 votes to seven.

Speaking after his party's victory Mr Howlin said: "It's an important night for workers and an important night for the Labour Party.

"This minority government has been beaten in the Dáil for the first time by a vote of the members and it's on the issue of of workers' rights.

"So Labour has now set the agenda for decent standard of living for workers, decent pay for workers, decent terms and conditions for workers.

"We've only just begun," Mr Howlin added.

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