President Higgins ‘will not allow’ Dáil to disband if programme for government fails, parties say

A dissolution of the Dáil is unlikely to be permitted by President Michael D Higgins should the programme for government be rejected this weekend, according to senior sources in the main parties.
President Higgins ‘will not allow’ Dáil to disband if programme for government fails, parties say
President Michael D Higgins with Leo Varadkar TD at Aras an Uachtarain on January 14 2020, requesting in accordance with Article 13 of the Constitution, that President Michael D. Higgins dissolve the 32nd Dáil. Pic Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos
President Michael D Higgins with Leo Varadkar TD at Aras an Uachtarain on January 14 2020, requesting in accordance with Article 13 of the Constitution, that President Michael D. Higgins dissolve the 32nd Dáil. Pic Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos

Additional reporting by Aoife Moore

A dissolution of the Dáil is unlikely to be permitted by President Michael D Higgins should the programme for government be rejected this weekend, according to senior sources in the main parties.

Leading figures in both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are increasingly concerned the requirement for a two-thirds majority in the Green Party could be “a bridge too far” — with many TDs saying it is “too close to call”.

Attention is now shifting to what will happen should the deal be voted down. The Constitution demands that should that happen, then acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would formally seek a dissolution of Dáil Éireann and trigger a second general election.

However, the parties believe President Higgins will not accede to such a request in light of the ongoing pandemic restrictions.

Such a failure could allow Fine Gael bow out of consideration, having tried to form a government. It could also force Fianna Fáil to open talks with Sinn Féin, as two of the three large parties would be needed to form a government.

One senior source said: “How could he allow a general election with Covid still not over? There is a concern he will send Leo back and see if the parties could find an alternative route to power.”

In response to queries from the Irish Examiner, President Higgins’ spokesman said he “is aware of the powers of the President as outlined in Bunreacht na hÉireann and their exercise in ‘absolute discretion’ as indicated in the Constitution, and indeed the literature on the exercise of such powers”.

“While he is following events as they unfold, it would not be appropriate for the President to participate in any speculation as to how such events might evolve and the constitutional issues that might arise,” the spokesman said. “The President has had no discussion on constitutional or political matters as they might be unfolding with those to whom you refer in your query.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald says the country should be ready to move to ‘Plan B’ in the event of the programme for government being rejected.

However, she said a second general election of 2020 “would not be a “catastrophe”.

Matt Carthy TD Louise O Reilly TD President of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald TD David Cullinane TD Eoin O Broin TD during a Sinn Fein Press brieifng at Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
Matt Carthy TD Louise O Reilly TD President of Sinn Fein Mary Lou McDonald TD David Cullinane TD Eoin O Broin TD during a Sinn Fein Press brieifng at Leinster House on Kildare Street, Dublin. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Speaking to Newstalk FM, Ms McDonald said she would

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Meanwhile, a leading Cork Green councillor says she was temporarily suspended by the party after she spoke out against government formation talks.

In May this year, Lorna Bogue made a number of media appearances speaking out against the Greens entering negotiations, claiming the promises being made by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were “slippery”.

Ms Bogue’s comments were put to party leader Eamon Ryan on RTÉ’s Prime Time on May 7, and on May 8, Ms Bogue received an email from the party headquarters that her membership status had been changed by the party, “in relation to two national media appearances”, among other issues.

Cllr Lorna Bogue, Green Party Councillor for Cork City South East
Cllr Lorna Bogue, Green Party Councillor for Cork City South East

Cork Greens communications officer Robert O’Sullivan said: “I can confirm that we are aware that one of our members received an email from the party stating their suspension from the Green Party.

"We have been in regular contact with the member in question regarding this matter, and will be following up with head office as the situation arises.”

When approached by the Irish Examiner, Ms Bogue said: “I think this kind of misbehaviour can be seen publicly now. When people speak out, they’re set upon with these ad-hominem attacks, and I’ve been told to leave my party — that behaviour is persistent. I’ve noticed that a lot of people are staying quiet on it, I’ve been open internally about the abuse I’ve received at the hands of the party, when I speak out I get silenced and people denying what’s happening to me.

“I’ve been enduring this for over a year, and when people see how I’ve been treated, they think: ‘Well, I’m not going to say anything.’ ”

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