Irish government on borrowed time

| December 17, 2019

The Irish government finds itself on ‘life support’ after a number of unexpected setbacks have narrowed Leo Varadkar’s ruling Fine Gael majority to just two seats, writes Ken Murray.

Speculation is rife in Dublin that a general election could be called any time within the next eight weeks as tensions mount in the Irish parliament over issues such as housing, hospital waiting lists and the Irish implications of the British exit from the European Union.

Speaking in The Dáil recently, John McGuinness TD of the main opposition party Fianna Fáil said the current arrangement whereby his colleagues prop up the Varadkar administration though a confidence and supply agreement, has long passed its sell-by date.

He said: “If someone puts down a vote of no confidence in the Government, I’ll vote for it.

I honestly hope this supply and confidence arrangement, which is a farce, comes to an end quickly so that the electorate can have their say.”

He made his remarks following a vote of no confidence in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy which Leo Varadkar’s ruling Fine Gael Party won by 56 votes to 53 with Fianna Fail TDs abstaining.

The narrow win was made all the more acute for Leo Varadkar when minutes after the result, one of his loyal TDs was forced to resign his seat after becoming embroiled in an expenses and double-jobbing row.

Dara Murphy, who represented the Cork North Central constituency since 2011, was forced to step down after it emerged he was being paid €10,000 per month in Brussels by the EPP political group while simultaneously receiving a Dáil salary and expenses worth €150,000 per year.

Dara Murphy’s resignation came just three weeks after Party Colleague Maria Bailey was de-selected for the forthcoming general election by Fine Gael after finding herself in trouble arising from a dubious insurance claim she made against The Dean Hotel in Dublin where, she said, she suffered an injury following a fall from a swing.!

Added to Leo Varadkar’s woes, the recent by-election in Dublin Mid-West arising from the election in May of his former Ministerial colleague Frances Fitzgerald as an MEP, saw his party lose that particular seat to Mark Ward of Sinn Féin.

With the Varadkar administration remaining in power by just two votes, there is growing speculation that any no-confidence motion in his Government in the coming weeks from opposition parties could force the Country in to a premature General Election, one year ahead of schedule.

While Leo Varadkar’s fate as Taoiseach is now effectively at the behest of 16 independent TDs in the 158-seat parliament, the leader of Fianna Fáil, the main opposition party which is trailing Fine Gael in the polls, Micheal Martin has said he suspects a general election will take place in early 2020.

Speaking recently as his Party’s ‘think-tank’ session at Gorey in Co. Wexford, he said “he was putting the national interest first” and indicated that he “won’t seek to collapse the government.”

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