Monday 27 May 2019

Fine Gael minister 'considering vote of no confidence' in Eoghan Murphy

Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Frank McGrath
Eoghan Murphy. Photo: Frank McGrath
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Minister of State Catherine Byrne has told ministerial colleagues she is considering supporting or abstaining on a motion of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy.

Ms Byrne has been at war with Mr Murphy over the development of 470 new homes in her constituency.

Catherine Byrne TD
Catherine Byrne TD

During the summer, she took to the stage at the launch of the project to say it was the "worst plan" she had ever seen.

Since the intervention she has continued to campaign against the State's first not-for-profit rental accommodation on the St Michael's House site in Inchicore, Dublin.

Ms Byrne believes the cost rental model is not appropriate for her area as it will not benefit local families and their children. The Minister of State’s relationship with Mr Murphy has been extremely strained since her public criticism of his plan.

Several high-level Government sources today confirmed Ms Byrne has now privately threatened to support or abstain on the no confidence motion tabled against Mr Murphy by Sinn Fein.

Several source said Ms Byrne told ministerial colleagues she was prepared to take the extraordinary action in response to Mr Murphy's failure to listen to her concerns about the St Michael's House project.

It is understood she told ministers she would not back her Fine Gael colleague if plans for the site are not dramatically changed.

Eoghan Murphy
Eoghan Murphy

She told TDs and ministers she believes Mr Murphy does not understand the impact of the development on her local community.

One Government source said: “This is potentially very serious but there is a while to go before the vote on the motion tomorrow night.

"She could have just not turned up in the chamber but she's told so many people now it would have been obvious that she wasn't backing Eoghan,” the source added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is understood to be aware of the threat but has not spoken directly to Ms Byrne about her concerns. 

The move would present the Government with serious difficulties ahead of tomorrow's debate on Mr Murphy's handling of the housing crisis.

The Government's small majority means Ms Byrne's vote is essential to ensure Mr Murphy remains in his ministerial portfolio.

Fianna Fáil has decided to abstain on the vote but Dáil arithmetic means the Taoiseach will need every Government TD in the chamber to ensure the motion is defeated.

Mr Varadkar has already told TDs and ministers to cancel travel plans ahead of the vote.

The St Michael’s House project would consist of 470 new homes with 30pc reserved for social housing, 60pc rented to low and middle income earners and the remaining 10pc assigned for affordable housing.

Ms Byrne recently wrote to Dublin City councillors saying anti-social behaviour and crime in her constituency should be addressed before the site is developed.

“I believe that the proposal on the table for the former St Michael’s Estate site is simply the wrong one if it doesn’t include an option for long-term, permanent housing, alongside amenities and services which would benefit the community as a whole,” she said.

Ms Byrne did not respond to requests for comment.

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