By David Young, PA
A no-confidence motion in the Government looks set to fail after two TDs outside the Coalition made clear they would not support it.
Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh, who resigned the party whip last week, and Independent TD Marc MacSharry, who quit Fianna Fáil last year, said they would vote against the Sinn Féin motion.
Their stance would ensure the failure of the no confidence motion, as long as all TDs from the three Coalition parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens – also oppose it.
Tuesday’s motion comes after the Government lost its majority in the Dáil.
That happened last week when former education minister Mr McHugh relinquished the Fine Gael whip after he voted against the Government’s controversial Bill to provide redress to homeowners in counties affected by defective building blocks.
The loss of Mr McHugh saw the number of Government TDs drop to 79 – one short of a Dáil majority.
The Coalition has gradually seen its majority erode in the last year.
In May, Green TDs Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello had the whip removed from them after they voted against the Government on an issue related to the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital.
That came after Mr MacSharry quit Fianna Fáil last year.
On Sunday, Mr McHugh and Mr MacSharry said they would vote against the motion.
Mr McHugh told RTÉ he would not be “hastening Sinn Féin’s pursuit of power”.
Meanwhile, Mr MacSharry said a general election would not address the issues of housing and homelessness.
“It will simply take politicians’ focus off the real issues for up to six months,” he told RTÉ.
Earlier, Ms Hourigan said she was still undecided on whether she would support the Government in the motion.
She also said Government whips had not yet been in contact with her about the confidence vote.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin is hopeful of securing the backing of several other Independent TDs in Tuesday’s vote.
As such, Government ministers are confident of defeating the motion, despite Labour, the Social Democrats, People Before Profit/Solidarity, the Rural Independents and Aontu all set to support the Sinn Féin bid.
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said Independent TDs were facing a “big call” on whether they were going to back “bad government” or instead “stand up and be counted” to secure a change in administration.
Ms Hourigan said she did not know how she would vote.
“I am as yet undecided,” she told RTÉ Radio One.
“I would appreciate if I could get some communication from the whips around what is expected when you are suspended.”
She added: “I haven’t decided yet – that’s the honest answer, that’s as perfectly honest as I can be. I haven’t decided what I am going to do yet.”
Ms Hourigan’s insistence that the party whips had not been in contact with her appeared at odds with a claim from Greens Minister of State Pippa Hackett, who said she understood that there had been engagement with the suspended TDs.
Speaking to RTÉ One, Ms Hackett added: “We have no concerns about next week’s vote of confidence in us, I think this is not surprising from Sinn Féin in the last week of the Dáil term to come up with this.”
Fine Gael minister of state Peter Burke branded the motion a “stunt” that would waste Dáil time.
“The Government and Fine Gael are completely focused on tackling the issues that impact on people’s lives, and Sinn Féin’s politically motivated motion will simply take valuable Dáil time away from that work,” he said.
Earlier, Ms McDonald rejected claims her party’s motion was a “stunt” that was unlikely to succeed.
“Democracy isn’t stunts and parliamentary procedures are not stunts,” she told BBC NI.
“The Government has lost its Dáil majority. They’ve been in office for two years and, despite their protestations to the contrary, we have seen a bad situation made worse by their inability to innovate, to deliver, to change and the time has come now and the time is right to call that out.”
She challenged undecided TDs to back no confidence.
“There are others now who have a big call to make and will have a big call to make on Tuesday, and it boils down to this – do they believe that this Government is successful? The evidence clearly demonstrates that they are not.
“But those TDs need to now decide will they vote to allow a bad government to continue and for people to suffer, or will they stand up and be counted, back our motion and allow the opportunity for a new government, for a government of change that can actually deliver in the way that people need.”
One issue that could influence how some TDs vote is the Government’s plan to tackle climate change.
Rural members are concerned that setting an onerous carbon reduction target for the agriculture setting could devastate the industry.
At the weekend it emerged that Environment Minister and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan will not bring a final plan setting out sectoral emission targets to Cabinet this week as originally planned.
Mr Ryan and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue have yet to agree what requirements will be imposed on the farming sector. They are trying to settle on a target within a range of 22 per cent to 30 per cent.
Ms Hourigan was asked whether her view of the Government would be influenced by the ability of the Greens to secure its climate agenda.
She said if the Coalition parties could not agree carbon budgets it would represent a failure.
“The effectiveness of the Greens in government of course has an impact on how I feel about voting on all the difficult issues that come across the table and come up in the Dáil,” she said.
“And that of course does have an impact because you want to make sure that you’re doing what you promised your voters that you would do, that you would go in there and you would fight not just for climate change, but climate change that operates in a way that doesn’t hurt the most vulnerable.”