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Labour senators break ranks on debate

Three Labour Party senators yesterday voted against the Government, in an embarrassing day for the Coalition, but are unlikely to be disciplined.

The Seanad actually voted to refer the plan to have itself abolished to the new Constitutional think-tank -- contrary to coalition policy.

The Government managed to lose three votes in the Seanad as the opposition pressed for a debate on reform of the Upper House.

The coalition lost two votes on the issue, as Independent senators -- some of whom were appointed by the Government -- voted to have the debate.

The bizarre debate then took place with the only speakers from the government side being Fine Gael Seanad leader Maurice Cummins and Labour Seanad leader Ivana Bacik.

A third vote was then held on a proposal to refer the Government's plans to hold a referendum to abolish the Seanad to the Constitutional Convention.

In the latest sign of dissent in the coalition party's ranks, three Labour senators -- John Kelly, James Heffernan and Denis Landy -- proceeded to vote with the opposition on this question.

Voting against the Government would normally result in losing the party whip, but the trio are unlikely to be sanctioned.

Labour chief whip Emmet Stagg has asked for a report on the actions of the three senators from the Seanad whip Susan O'Keeffe.

Irish Independent