Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s crumbling coalition survived an opposition attempt to remove it from power last night, despite a tirade of opposition abuse over how the Maurice McCabe scandal has seen it go from “doing nothing” to “doing harm”.
The Fine Gael-Independents minority government won a motion of confidence in itself after Fianna Fáil controversially abstained from the high-profile vote.
The motion was put down in response to Sinn Féin’s motion of no confidence in Government due to the fallout from the coalition response to the unprecedented false Tusla sex abuse claims against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
However, despite Mr Kenny’s Government surviving the vote, the Taoiseach repeatedly cut a beaten figure.
Launching the Government defence of its performance since it came to office last May, Mr Kenny said the Sinn Féin motion was “political opportunism”.
Insisting “I will not and do not apologise for my record as Taoiseach”, Mr Kenny said the reality is the country “needs stability” as “in a short few weeks” Brexit will officially begin.
Unlike confidence motions in previous governments during which the then taoiseach’s staunch response resulted in wild applause from his party, Mr Kenny’s speech was met with silence.
And while Housing Minister Simon Coveney, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Health Minister Simon Harris, among others, all publicly supporting the Government in later speeches, notably none specifically supported Mr Kenny’s leadership.
After Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and housing spokesperson Barry Cowen defended their party’s controversial decision to abstain on the vote as an election is not in the public or Sergeant McCabe’s interests, opposition TDs heavily criticised the situation.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said “no other modern democracy” could stand over events of recent days, while Labour leader Brendan Howlin said that “from doing nothing the Government is now doing harm”.
In a notable defence many last night saw as a clear leadership bid announcement, Mr Varadkar said while “the events of the past week have undermined belief in us as a party and confidence in the Government, we can and will put things right”.
However, summing up the mood of the chamber, Independents4Change TD Joan Collins said: “You may win the confidence vote, but walk out onto to streets and see what people think.”
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