Dara Calleary attended a dinner in honour of an old friend in a hotel in Clifden, Co Galway, and he lost his job as a Cabinet minister.
A court eventually dismissed allegations the now infamous Oireachtas Golf Society dinner was in breach of Covid regulations, but that was no use to Calleary, who resigned the day after revelations about the event emerged.
Allegations concerning a historic minor drink-driving offence shortened Barry Cowen’s political career in high office. There are ongoing investigations into Cowen’s case, but the outcomes won’t matter too much because time has moved on as it always seems to do after the initial frenzy surrounding a political controversy.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin did not take any enjoyment from losing two of his most senior ministers, and the now backbench TDs certainly paid a heavy price for their politically inconvenient debacles.
Martin didn’t come under too much pressure from his Coalition counterparts in either scenario and took the decision to sack Cowen and accepted Calleary’s resignation off his own bat.
There have been lots of tricky votes for the Coalition since taking office – not least some of the unprecedented Covid-19 measures introduced during the pandemic.
Government backbench TDs grumbled, complained and made threats not to vote on various piece of legislation but, for the most part, they didn’t follow through.
A couple of backbenchers have gone missing on voting days, which meant they could avoid voting against their Government colleagues.
Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan admitted missing a vote on legislation imposing new restrictions on the hospitality sector during the pandemic. He avoided any sanction for that particular indiscretion.
As a rule, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs who vote against the Government lose their party whip and are suspended for six months.
Marc MacSharry jumped before he was pushed over the controversy surrounding the so-called champagne party in the Department of Foreign Affairs. There were few tears shed in the Taoiseach’s Office over MacSharry’s exit, but losing a TD is always seen as a failure of politics and compromise.
Things are different in the Green Party. Backbench TD Neasa Hourigan voted against the Government on tenancy legislation while Minister of State Joe O’Brien abstained on the same vote.
Hourigan and O’Brien had their speaking rights in the Dáil as Green Party members removed for two months.
This pretty weak punishment for voting against the Government they signed up to support came just before the Dáil’s summer recess, so their speaking ban lasted only two weeks in reality. As far as deterrents go for voting against your own government, you would hardly describe it as stringent. O’Brien got to keep his lucrative ministerial salary and Hourigan didn’t have to turn her back on the party that ensured she earns €100,000 a year.
Last night, Hourigan was at it again when voting against the Government on a private member’s motion on the proposed site for the new NMH.
She decided to prove she is not a team player and voted against the Government on an amendment to the Sinn Féin motion. The first-time Dublin Central TD was joined by Dublin South Central TD Patrick Costello, who previously took a legal action against the State over a trade deal with Canada. With Government TDs like these, who needs an opposition?
Eamon Ryan isn’t known for cracking the whip when it comes to internal party discipline. But backbenchers in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were insisting the Greens face the same sanctions they do.
In the end the Green Party met last night to discuss sanctions for the two TDs and acted decisively by suspending both from the parliamentary party for six months. But will six months be enough to ensure future discipline with the Green Party ranks?
With the Coalition’s majority being slowly chipped away, Ryan must ensure more of his TDs won’t jump ship over other matters in the coming months.