TÁNAISTE Mary Coughlan has described the rebellion within Fianna Fáil over animal welfare legislation as merely “exuberance”.
As the Dáil enters its final week before the summer recess, the Government could lose another TD because of the legislation, which has caused ructions between Fianna Fáil and the Greens.
Last week, Fianna Fáil TD Mattie McGrath lost the party whip after voting against the Wildlife (Amendment) Bill, brought forward by Environment Minister and Green leader John Gormley to end stag-hunting.
Mr McGrath’s actions did not affect the overall outcome of the vote, which the Government won.
However, his departure meant the Government’s already precarious numbers in the Dáil were further reduced.
The second piece of legislation causing tensions among the coalition partners – the Dog Breeding Establishments Bill – is due to be voted on this Thursday, the final day of the term.
That bill, also brought forward by Mr Gormley, aims to provide safeguards for dogs in breeding establishments. But it has angered rural Fianna Fáil TDs because Mr Gormley has refused to exempt greyhounds and hunting dogs from the provisions. He has, however, agreed to allow the Greyhound Industry Act 1958 to be amended to include the provisions of the dog-breeding bill rather than have separate pieces of legislation covering the greyhound industry.
In addition, rather than mandatory micro-chipping of all dogs covered by the bill, he will allow hunt clubs with dog-breeding establishments continue to tattoo dogs for traceability purposes.
He has also promised further amendments in a bid to placate Fianna Fáil, and discussions continue between the coalition partners.
Nevertheless, Fianna Fáil TD Christy O’Sullivan was quoted yesterday as saying he would consider voting against the bill if the amendments were not satisfactory. Were he to do so, he would instantly lose the party whip.
And while the Government could still expect to win the vote, it would effectively go limping into the summer and return to the prospect of passing a tough December budget with a Dáil minority.
It will be dependent on the likes of Mr McGrath and other former Fianna Fáil TDs who lost the whip over various issues to support it.
The Tánaiste last night played down the turmoil within Fianna Fáil over the legislation, describing it as exuberance.
“I think it is important to (realise) that these issues can conjure up a certain type of exuberance that perhaps a lot of people watching today won’t appreciate but it is on the basis that it is an important industry,” she told RTE’s The Week in Politics.
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