Fine Gael TD and former chief whip Joe McHugh has said that he will be looking at every Dáil vote in the future as “an individual”.
The former education minister last night resigned the whip after voting against the Government’s defective blocks Bill, which provides for a redress scheme for those affected by defective building blocks, meaning the coalition Government lost its majority.
“This is a new departure for me” the Donegal TD told Highland Radio. “I will have to look at every vote and see how it will benefit my constituency.”
However, he added that he would not become an Opposition TD “overnight.”
Mr McHugh said that he would suffer consequences as a result of resigning the party whip, but pointed out “I have no skin in the game” and that there was no political advantage for him taking the position he had as he will not be running as a candidate in the next election.
'The right choice'
There had been a number of conversations with party leader Leo Varadkar on Tuesday and Wednesday and with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on Wednesday, Mr McHugh said.
He said that he had not wanted to vote against the Government, he had thought he could get some changes through on downsizing and foundations, but that did not happen.
“I felt it was the right choice to vote against the scheme. The scheme is too complicated.”
Mr McHugh said that there was not enough time and that Mr O’Brien had wanted to get the scheme started and for people to move on with their lives. However, Mr McHugh said that people were going to be excluded under the scheme “and that’s the issue I had.”
People could not understand why foundations were not included, he added.
People in Donegal had a better understanding of the issue, he said, as it was a lived experience and they could see the impact of mica at first hand. “It all comes back to real life scenarios of lives on hold.
“What we have to do now is make this scheme better. It’s going to be difficult. I am going to use my position and relationship with officials, some of whom wanted a better scheme. Something happened to make it more constricted.”
Another Donegal TD, Sinn Féin’s Padraig MacLochlainn, told the same programme that he welcomed Mr McHugh’s stand, describing it as an important vote of solidarity with the people.
He said the job of all now was to get behind home owners and give them strength. He said he had been “genuinely shocked” that changes in relation to foundations and downsizing had not been agreed.