Wexford People

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'It has been a whirlwind'

A vote of no confidence in housing minister Eoghan Murphy dominated proceedings on Deputy Byrne's first day at Leinster House


Malcolm Byrne TD with his mother Mary on his first day in Dáil Éireann

Malcolm Byrne TD with his mother Mary on his first day in Dáil Éireann

Malcolm Byrne TD with his mother Mary on his first day in Dáil Éireann

Gorey's Malcolm Byrne found himself right in the thick of things on his first day as a TD in Dáil Éireann, less than three days after being elected in the Wexford by-election.

The day began with some formal proceedings, as the new Dáil Deputy officially registered himself as TD and signed in for the first time.

Thankfully he was in good company, having invited his mother Mary as well as some campaign members and friends to help with settling in.

Getting to grips with things, he faced the media on the plinth outside Leinster House alongside Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin and fellow newly elected TD Padraig O'Sullivan.

The topic which dominated the press conference was of that evening's no confidence motion in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy, set to be debated in the Dáil chamber having been put forward by the Social Democrats.

Speaking to the press, Deputy Byrne said that he didn't want to appear on another ballot paper before Christmas.

Later that evening, Byrne and his fellow Fianna Fáil TDs abstained from the vote, which saw Eoghan Murphy TD survive by 56 votes to 53.

In the Dáil chamber, newly elected Sinn Féin TD Mark Ward used his first speaking time to call out Fianna Fáil's newly elected TDs. He said that the people of their constituencies didn't elect them to 'sit on their hands'.

Speaking to this newspaper, the new Wexford TD said that he saw the no confidence motion as a 'stunt', which motivated him to abstain.

'Nobody wanted an election triggered by a no confidence motion, it was a very clear stunt.

'I'm not into the politics of slogans, I'm interested in solutions. Yes I want to see Eoghan Murphy out of office and I would like to see a Fianna Fail led government, but I got a lot of abuse online and from members of other parties on this.

'Interestingly, they were not present during the topic of housing solutions later in the week, and failed to come up with any ideas.

'My views in abstaining were about putting forward real solutions, as having a Christmas election will get no more houses built.'

Day two saw Byrne back in the chamber again, as well as on our TV screens that evening when he appeared on the panel of Virgin Media One's 'Tonight Show'.

Topics discussed during the programme ranged from the resignation of Fine Gael TD Dara Murphy to the legalisation of euthanasia.

On Thursday, he spoke for the first time in the Dáil on housing solutions, and made his maiden speech.

Advocating legislative change he said renters should be able to use their ability to pay rent as proof of savings when applying for a mortgage, describing them as 'locked out of the aspiration to own their own homes'.

Following this, he put forward a motion around secondary school places in county Wexford to the Education Minister, Joe McHugh.

'One of my motions was selected for topical issues, I was just lucky to be able to raise the issue.

'I welcome the fact the Minister gave a commitment that students in Gorey and Wexford would be guaranteed a school place for 2020 but I don't want to see the continuing distress, and I'm concerned as he didn't give a commitment for the long term.

'What we need is long term planning in education and in other areas, and I'm going to continue to pursue the Minister.'

Deputy Byrne said that the biggest challenge this week has been juggling his commitments as he sets things up as a new TD.

'It has been a whirlwind as it's unusual to be coming straight off a campaign and straight in, especially as I'm just one of four new TDs. Normally you might have a bit of a period to adjust.

'I'm enjoying it though and it was a special being at my first parliamentary meeting. What immediately stuck me was the history of it all and how it really is so great an honour.

'The days have been long and I see now that people who are involved in politics work hard, but all parties were very welcoming and happy to offer words of advice to help me out.'

He has also been involved in voting legislation on bingo balls and greyhound tracks this week.

'Every piece of legislation is complex and I've had very little time to get my head around some of it. I haven't really recovered yet from the by-election campaign, they were all-consuming trials seven days a week,' he said.

But with the likelihood that a general election could be called as early as February, it seems it won't be long before the new Wexford TD is dusting off the campaign shoes again.

'Often after an election you have some breathing space and I didn't in these circumstances, but I'll be ready for a general election whenever it happens,' he said.

Wexford People