Green Party suspends two TDs who supported Sinn Féin motion on public ownership of NMH
Updated 8 hours ago
THE GREEN PARTY has suspended two TDs who voted in favour of a Sinn Féin motion which calls for the new National Maternity Hospital to be fully public and located on publicly owned land.
Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello voted against the government on the motion, which was passed by the Dáil as the other government TDs abstained. The final count was 56 votes in favour, 10 against and 69 abstentions.
A couple of hours after the vote, the Green Party announced that its parliamentary party had agreed to remove the party whip and suspend Costello and Hourigan for six months.
“The parliamentary party regrets having to take this step but believes our effectiveness in government relies on unity in every vote. Both deputies will have an opportunity to apply for readmission at the end of this six month period,” it said in a statement.
Losing the two TDs reduces the number of government TDs to 80, the bare minimum needed for a majority.
In a statement earlier this evening, Costello said he knows his actions are “frustrating” for the Green Party’s government partners.
“But the issue of the National Maternity Hospital has been incredibly frustrating, confusing and challenging for many and this motion reflected my own concerns and the concerns of many,” he said.
I could not in good conscience vote against it. I know breaking the whip is a serious issue and as I have said earlier I will accept the sanctions imposed from my action.
“I understand my Green Party colleagues are meeting tonight and will decide on the appropriate sanction for my vote,” the statement added.
Hourigan yesterday signalled her intentions to vote with Sinn Féin on the motion.
The government said yesterday it would not be opposing the motion, this means that it would not be tabling a motion in opposition to Sinn Féin’s.
Under the plan agreed by Cabinet yesterday, the State will own the NMH buildings but the land on which it will be built will be owned by St Vincent’s Healthcare Group which will lease it back to the State for 299 years.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin in the Dáil today.
Speaking in the Dáil today, An Taoiseach said that the “fundamental issue of ownership had been dealt with” and that tonight’s Sinn Fein motion has “a political agenda”.
“I’ve been around now for a bit and understand Private Member’s motions and the motivation behind them, the need to keep government under pressure,” he said.
I understand that fully and so we will deal with the motion in the manner that we see fit as a government.
He added: “Just as you equally would put forward motions with a very clear political agenda behind them. We did not come down in the last cloud. So I’m fully comfortable with what’s happening this evening in respect of private member’s motion.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald had told the Taoiseach that Sinn Féin’s motion is “crystal clear” in seeking “full public ownership” of the NMH land and she asked him whether he would “act on the will of the Dáil” if the motion is passed.
The vote this evening saw the rebel Green TDs voting for the Sinn Féin bill.
The whip system effectively keeps party members within the parliamentary party, with sanctions usually enforced if they do not. For example, Hourigan previously lost speaking rights after voting against the Government in 2020.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One earlier today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that it would be up to the Green Party to decide on what action to take if its TDs vote against the government later this evening.
“Ultimately, the Green Party will have to make a decision as to what action they take,” said Varadkar.
He added that there would be consequences for Fine Gael TDs if they voted against the motion, but added that if the government voted freely often, there wouldn’t be “a functioning government”.
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“That’s why we take a collective responsibility, that if as a party, we decide that we want to do something, well, then we vote with the party.
“On occasion, people feel they can’t do that and that then has consequences down the line.”
Varadkar added that it wouldn’t be good for the government to lose a TD, and that it would reduce its majority within the Dáil.
Additional reporting from Céimin Burke