Fury in Dáil after incorrect vote on bill

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan resisted calls to withdraw the judicial appointments bill amid fury and chaos in the Dáil.

Opposition TDs were irate yesterday after it emerged the Dáil, on Tuesday night, had incorrectly voted on provisions in the bill after the Government lost a vote.

Once lost, those provisions should not have been tabled, but they were.

Ceann comhairle Seán Ó Fearghail said because the provisions were passed, they could not be undone at this stage, but that the confusion could be rectified in the Seanad.

“As the division on amendment No8 was lost, technically amendment No10 should not have been moved. However, it was moved and was agreed on a division and, in accordance with established precedent, that decision cannot be revisited here. Any anomaly arising in the text of the bill can be addressed in the Seanad,” he said.

TDs said that, as a result of the confusion, they were now unsure about key elements of the bill, like how many people would sit on the commission which will select judges.

Kerry TD Michael Healy-Rae said the credibility of the Government lay in tatters because of the confusion caused by the bill.

He, along with Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan, Independent TDs Mattie McGrath, Clare Daly, and Mick Wallace, all called for the bill to be withdrawn, but Mr Flanagan was not for moving.

“I do not intend to withdraw the bill because I believe we have a pathway forward, as outlined by the ceann comhairle,” he said.

“Of course, I accept that it is not ideal, but I acknowledge the will and wishes of members of this house as manifest in the vote. I now believe that the object of our exercise must be to move forward now with a view towards addressing the inconsistency, and I believe we can do it.”

Mr Wallace said the situation was as “clear as mud”.

Mr McGrath criticised Transport Minister Shane Ross for forcing a bill that Fine Gael doesn’t want on the people. He also lashed out at Mr Ross’s absence during the debate in the Dáil.

“The minister, Deputy Shane Ross, cut his teeth in the Seanad. I wonder where he is. He is not here tonight again. We all know this is his bill and that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Charlie Flanagan, is shepherding it thorough like a substitute driver. The Minister for Transport could well be here to let us know why he got us into this sorry mess.”

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness described the “utter confusion” of the night before. “Arising from that confusion, I will not say there is no clarity but that there is no great clarity on the process from here on,” he said.

“I believe it would be worthwhile withdrawing it and reintroducing it when fully thought out and when it deals with the issues that have arisen in the context of the debate on it up to now.”


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