Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan will vote against her own government colleagues next week as the Coalition also faces a fresh no confidence motion over the scrapping of the eviction ban, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
s Hourigan, writing for this newspaper, has confirmed she will support a Sinn Féin motion when it comes before the Dáil this week to extend the eviction ban into next year.
It comes as Labour leader Ivana Bacik says her party will separately table a motion of no confidence in the Government on Wednesday week unless the ban is extended beyond March 31.
This move will pile further pressure on the Coalition which is already grappling with a slim Dáil majority and will now have to shore up support from nervous backbenchers and Independent TDs who are being contacted by constituents facing eviction.
One senior TD predicted ministers will “get a land” when they return from their St Patrick’s Day trips this week.
As pressure mounts, officials in Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien’s department are devising legislation to give tenants first refusal to purchase their rented home if their landlord is selling and an associated state scheme to purchase a tenant’s home and rent it back to them under a cost-rental backstop.
Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen said he is currently dealing with around 20 cases of tenants facing eviction in his constituency. “I want to see real action and delivery on purchasing units where tenants in situ are subject to eviction notices to make good on Government promises,” he said. “This deserves weekly, at least, fortnightly reports to those of us making such submissions ensuring we have the backs of the unfortunate people in such dire circumstances.”
Ms Hourigan is now facing an uncertain future in the Greens with any decision to remove the whip set to reduce the Coalition’s basic Dáil majority to just one. Last year she was suspended from the party for six months after voting against the Government on a motion regarding the location of the National Maternity Hospital.
“To achieve stable government, all coalitions require compromise. As someone who has had to vote in ways I have often thought were not sensible, or not in the best interests of my constituents, I’m more aware of this than most,” Ms Hourigan writes. “But coalition niceties don’t count for much on the ground in Dublin Central, when all around you families are facing a life on the street.”
A Green Party source said it is not inevitable Ms Hourigan will face a sanction more severe than a six-month suspension and hinted the party may show leniency. However, any decision over her future, including her chairmanship of the Oireachtas Budgetary Committee which comes with a stipend of nearly €10,000, ultimately hinges on the view of party leader Eamon Ryan who will return from a St Patrick’s Day trip to China this week.
Meanwhile Ms Bacik wrote to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last Thursday asking him to adopt a Labour bill to extend the eviction ban indefinitely until there is a fall in monthly homelessness figures for four successive months.
“If they don’t do that then we are going to, I think, have no choice but to put down a motion of no confidence in Government and it’s not something we would do lightly in Labour,” she said.
Ms Hourigan said in backing Sinn Féin’s motion this week she is upholding Green Party policy to maintain the ban until such time as the Government completes a significant policy intervention in the housing sector.
Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme on Sunday, Green Party chairwoman Pauline O’Reilly said the party would have to send a signal to its coalition partners that TDs cannot vote against the Government without sanctions.
She told the RTE This Week programme: “All Government TDs are expected to vote with the Government. It is the price that you pay for going into Government.
“The Green Party has achieved a significant amount in childcare, climate action, transport.
“All of that is underpinned by the fact that we expect our Government partners in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to vote with us on things that they find challenging.
“It means that on easy days and on hard days we also have to vote in line with the Government when the decisions are made at Cabinet.
“Neasa has voted against the Government twice before. This will be the third time.
“It is my belief that there will be sanctions and that they will go beyond previously.
“We have to ensure that we send a signal to Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, we don’t want their TDs voting against things that we have negotiated.
“There will be sanctions, there have to be sanctions, as we would expect from our Government colleagues.”