Minister forced to skip EU meeting due to crunch vote in Dáil
Published 06/06/2016 | 02:30
Communications Minister Denis Naughten was forced to skip a European Council meeting because he was needed in Dublin for a crunch Dáil vote on water charges.
The minority Government's tight numbers meant Mr Naughten couldn't travel to Brussels. Senior diplomat Tom Hanney attended the meeting in his place.
The Sinn Féin bid to abolish water charges was defeated on May 25.
That was after a Government amendment - in line with the plan to suspend water charges pending an expert review - passed instead.
The Government couldn't secure a 'pairing' for Mr Naughten, in which an opposition TD agrees not to vote, giving both TDs an opportunity to be absent.
Fianna Fáil abstained from the vote and Labour refused a pairing, according to Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty. She didn't ask Sinn Féin for a pairing, saying there "wasn't much point in asking them not to support their own motion".
Fine Gael TD Ms Doherty said she wasn't ruling out seeking such arrangements with Sinn Féin or any other party in future and that she "absolutely" hoped to avoid ministers missing EU meetings. Sinn Féin said the party would consider pairing requests as they arose.
The Government lost its first Dáil vote last week when Fianna Fáil TDs backed a Labour motion on workers' rights.
Ms Doherty says she's working to ensure that TDs are in the Dáil for such votes.
"I don't want us to get into a habit of losing votes on a week-in, week-out basis because I don't think that's healthy," she added.
Mr Naughten said it was possible to secure pairings with opposition TDs, citing one with Independent Mattie McGrath, allowing the minister to attend an event in Tipperary highlighting the trading online voucher scheme to improve businesses' internet presence.
He said Mr McGrath "saw what I was doing was important . . . and was willing to facilitate that pair."