Wednesday 17 January 2018

FG rebellion is unprecedented in Dail history

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE abortion rebellion in Fine Gael is believed to be unprecedented in Dail history, at least in modern times, with four TDs voting against their own Government.

Four Labour TDs also lost the whip in June 1994 for failing to support the Rainbow Coalition over a proposal not to provide funding for Aer Lingus.

However, not all four voted against the Government, with two abstaining, marking a slight difference from the Fine Gael abortion vote when all voted against the Government.

A group of Labour TDs from Dublin's northside voted against the Aer Lingus proposal, since aircraft maintenance company Team Aer Lingus was in particular trouble at the time and was a major employer in their constituencies.

Sean Ryan and Tommy Broughan voted against the Rainbow, while Derek McDowell, now Labour's spokesman in government, and Joe Costello, now a junior minister, abstained. All lost the Labour whip over the issue, and Mr Broughan, now an Independent TD, remembers the fallout, when they were all swiftly moved from the Labour rooms in the Leinster House complex.

"When we came in the morning after, all our gear, well mine anyway, was left down at the lobby," Mr Broughan said.

Social issues caused splits in Fine Gael in the past, such as the 1974 vote on contraception when then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, along with others such as Oliver J Flanagan, voted against their own government's bill. But Fine Gael TDs had been granted a free vote so nobody lost the party whip.

Ahead of the 1983 referendum to acknowledge the right to life of the unborn, FG and Labour TDs were given a free vote on the wording. This example is said to have influenced the decision by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, then a government backbencher, not to have a free vote on abortion this time, given the pressure rank and file TDs came under.

Other Dail votes include the 1982 Budget, which contained a tax on children's shoes, when Independent TD Jim Kemmy voted against the Fine Gael-Labour coalition, causing that government to collapse.

Another dramatic vote was a private member's motion on Barringtons Hospital in Limerick in the late 1980s, when Fianna Fail TD Willie O'Dea crossed the floor to vote for the opposition motion and cause a defeat for the Fianna Fail minority government.

Irish Independent

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