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Two Green TDs vote against Government on National Maternity Hospital motion

The Dail passed the Sinn Fein motion, with the final result showing 56 TDs in favour, 10 against and 69 abstaining.

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The row over the new national maternity hospital has dominated politics in recent weeks (Niall Carson/PA)

The row over the new national maternity hospital has dominated politics in recent weeks (Niall Carson/PA)

The row over the new national maternity hospital has dominated politics in recent weeks (Niall Carson/PA)

Two Green Party TDs broke ranks on Wednesday evening to back a motion calling for “full public ownership” of the National Maternity Hospital site.

The Dail passed the Sinn Fein motion, with the final result 56 TDs in favour, 10 against and 69 Government TDs abstaining.

Green Party TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello had signalled in advance of the vote that they would join opposition parties to support the motion, despite the likelihood of disciplinary sanctions for breaking the party whip.

Despite Cabinet approving the ownership and governance plans for the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH) at St Vincent’s earlier this week, critics of the agreement have continued to accuse the Government of failing to properly secure state ownership of a secular hospital.

I know this is frustrating for our government partners but the issue of the National Maternity Hospital has been incredibly frustrating, confusing and challenging for many and this motion reflected my own concerns and the concerns of manyPatrick Costello, TD

The controversy has dogged the Government for several weeks and on Tuesday the Government had hoped to dodge a vote on the non-binding Sinn Fein motion by not opposing it.

But on Tuesday evening it emerged that a vote would likely take place, after a vote was requested on the floor of the Dail by the Rural Independent Group.

The vote was facilitated under Dail procedure by other parties on Wednesday evening.

Green Party spokespeople would not confirm ahead of the vote what sanctions might be applied to Ms Hourigan and Mr Costello.

It is understood that both TDs expected action to be taken against them following the vote and a meeting of the Green Party is set to take place later on Wednesday night.

However, if the pair do lose the party whip it will reduce the Government’s support in the Dail to 80 TDs against 79 opposition TDs.

Ms Hourigan said on Tuesday: “Although the Sinn Fein motion is not binding I will be supporting the motion in order to formally register my objection to the National Maternity Hospital proceeding in its current format.”

In a statement following the vote, Mr Costello said: “I know this is frustrating for our government partners but the issue of the National Maternity Hospital has been incredibly frustrating, confusing and challenging for many and this motion reflected my own concerns and the concerns of many.”

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“I could not in good conscience vote against it. I know breaking the whip is a serious issue and as I have said earlier I will accept the sanctions imposed from my action.

“I understand my Green Party colleagues are meeting tonight and will decide on the appropriate sanction for my vote.

“Thank you to my supporters but mainly thank you to the many campaigners and advocates on the issue.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald had earlier accused the Government of sowing “confusion, distrust and unease” about its NMH plan, while independent Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae accused the Taoiseach Micheal Martin of being the “laughing stock of the country”.

During leaders’ questions on Wednesday, Mr Martin had offered little clue of how the Government parties would respond to the motion.

“I understand the politics of the motion,” Mr Martin told Ms McDonald. “I’ve been around now to understand members’ motions, the motivation behind them, the need to keep Government under pressure.

“I understand that fully. We will deal with the motion in the manner that we see fit as a Government, just as you, equally, would put forward motions with an agenda behind them.

“We didn’t all come down in the last cloud.

“What struck me is the attempts to sort of reverse the truth, to sort of rename the truth, and make a declaration which you’ve been consistently making and hoping it becomes the truth, ie that 300 years of a lease at 10 euro a year is somehow not ownership. It is ownership.”


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