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Byrne steps back from brink to back Murphy in no-confidence vote


Eoghan Murphy.  Pic: Collins

Eoghan Murphy. Pic: Collins

Eoghan Murphy. Pic: Collins

Minister of State Catherine Byrne yesterday pulled back from the brink and agreed to back her fellow minister Eoghan Murphy in last night's no confidence vote over his handling of the housing crisis.

The Government defeated the motion by 59 votes to 49 - with 29 TDs abstaining - but only after Fine Gael TDs were ordered to attend and Ms Byrne confirmed at the last minute that she would back her party colleague.

In recent days Ms Byrne had warned that she was considering supporting the no-confidence motion or abstaining in protest at a planned development of almost 500 homes in her constituency.


It prompted Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to warn that any minister who did not back the Government in the vote would be sacked.

Ms Byrne had publicly raised concern at plans for the St Michael's project in Inchicore, and the Government faced the embarrassing prospect that she would not support Mr Murphy in the crunch vote.

She met Mr Murphy and Mr Varadkar earlier yesterday and finally announced she would back the minister in a statement shortly before 9pm while the Dail debate was taking place.

She said they had "constructive" discussions and she would work with her colleagues to agree a plan to identify the socio-economic needs of her area that would "create a stable and vibrant community for generations to come".

Government sources last night said there were would be no consequences for Ms Byrne's role as a junior minister as a result of her wobble.

Introducing the Sinn Fein motion, the party's housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin argued that almost 10,000 people in emergency accommodation had been failed by Mr Murphy.

He denied the motion was a personal attack but said: "The buck stops with him, his plan is failing."

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called on Mr Varadkar to "relieve minister Murphy of his duties".

Mr Murphy responded by saying he wouldn't be distracted by "populist nonsense" that contributed nothing to solve the challenges faced in housing.

"I won't be hounded out of office by... personalised attacks against me," he added.

He said the Government did not cause the housing crisis but added "we will fix it" and said anyone who wanted the public to believe the housing crisis could be solved overnight was "dishonest and wrong".

Fianna Fail abstained from the vote under the terms of the party's confidence and supply agreement with Fine Gael.

Its housing spokesman Darragh O'Brien said everyone could agree there was a housing crisis but the vote was effectively whether or not to bring down the Government.

He said Fianna Fail believed that would be "deeply irresponsible" ahead of the Budget and amid ongoing Brexit talks.


The St Michael's Estate Regeneration Team last night issued a statement in response to the disagreement between Ms Byrne and Mr Murphy on the plan.

It raised concern that the housing crisis and the urgent need for solutions was getting lost in the debate.

It said the St Michael's project was a "common-sense proposal" that provided a long-term "fair-rent model".