Thursday 18 January 2018

Coalition scrapes through in vote on Seanad

Michael Brennan and Lise Hand

THE Government has been spared an embarrassing defeat on the Seanad abolition bill – due to the backing of three Independent senators.

Three other Independent senators – Feargal Quinn, Sean Barrett and David Norris – had put forward a motion to restart the debate in the Seanad on the bill.

This was supported by Fine Gael Senators Paul Bradford and Fidelma Healy Eames, who had already lost the party whip for voting against the abortion bill.

That increased the pressure on the Government, which was then in a minority situation, with 28 votes, due to the Fine Gael defections. The opposition had up to 30 votes when non-party senators were included.

However, three Independent senators who were appointed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, voted with the Government to ensure that it won by 31 votes to 27.

They are: the former Children's Rights Alliance chief executive Jillian van Turnhout; former DCU lecturer Marie Louise O'Donnell and Abbey Theatre director Fiach Mac Conghail.

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In a further note of drama, Senators Bradford and Healy-Eames were dismissed from the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

However, it is understood that this was because of their vote against the abortion bill the previous day.

The debate on the report and final stage of the Seanad abolition bill was adjourned without any further votes until tomorrow morning.

During the contributions, veteran Fianna Fail Senator Ned O'Sullivan said that it was the saddest day of his political career to see the Seanad vote for its own destruction.

And he criticised the three Independent senators who had voted in favour of the bill.

"They were heralded as a team of stars; all singing, all dancing. Tonight was their night and I think they came up very short," he said.

Fianna Fail Senator Jim Walsh criticised Taoiseach Enda Kenny for backing the abolition, saying there were those who say he was suffering from megalomania.

"Perhaps he should be referred to Dr Reilly for a diagnosis," he said.

Irish Independent

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