Red faces for Govt over committee vote defeat

Peter Mathews - voted against his own motion. Picture: Maxpix

The Government suffered an embarrassing defeat in a Dáil committee vote last night despite the coalition's massive majority.

Not enough Fine Gael and Labour TDs attended a meeting of the Finance Committee where the vote was taking place.

The coalition had wanted the Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan to appear before it next month, but the defeat now means he will instead be quizzed before the end of March.

Farcical scenes in the Dáil capped 48 hours of embarrassment for Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the €3.1bn Anglo payback due within days.

The committee, meeting in private, was discussing inviting the governor to attend but did not agree a date when that should happen. Fine Gael backbencher Peter Mathews then insisted Mr Honohan should be instructed to attend the committee by Friday week and proposed a motion stating that.

Colleagues told him this was against government wishes and if he voted for his own motion, he would lose the Fine Gael whip.

Mr Mathews then duly voted against, but party colleagues became concerned that not all Fine Gael members had turned up at the committee from a general parliamentary party meeting taking placed at the same time, and they then left the room to look for them.

They then found themselves locked out of the committee room and opposition members seized the chance to force a vote on Mr Honohan attending, which they won 11 votes to nine.

United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett said he believed it was "absolutely right" that Mr Honohan be called before the committee, "given the extreme urgency surrounding the payment of €3.1bn to Anglo Irish Bank at the end of the month under the terms of the promissory note".

"It is disappointing but not surprising that the government members on the commitee would oppose a proposal to bring Patrick Holohan before the commitee to explain his position regarding the payment of the Anglo Promissory note," Mr Boyd Barrett said.

"€3.1bn is a huge amount of money being paid into a toxic Anglo Irish bank.

"If there is any way that this payment could be avoided it would make a huge difference to the public finances and provide the possibility of reversing the crippling cuts inmposed on people in this country."

Additional reporting: Irish Examiner

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