Green Party's O'Brien unlikely to be sacked after abstaining on bill vote

Some government members suggest Joe O'Brien should resign after deciding not to vote on Residential Tenancies Bill
Green Party's O'Brien unlikely to be sacked after abstaining on bill vote
Green Party junior minister Joe O'Brien abstained from the vote because he 'wasn’t convinced that this piece of legislation was the best we could have done'. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Green Party junior minister Joe O’Brien looks set to escape being sacked after he abstained on the final vote of the Residential Tenancies Bill.

His party colleague, Neasa Hourigan, voted against the bill, having resigned her position as party chief whip.

It is understood Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar were happy to let Green Party leader Eamon Ryan deal with Mr O'Brien's decision with the feeling it is rare to hang someone for a first offence.

The three party leaders spoke last night.

Others in government were less sympathetic and suggested he should resign.

“It is very hard to see how his position can be justified. It undermines the stability of the whole coalition. While there may be sympathy for Joe personally, you just can’t do that as a minister," said one source.

Mr O’Brien’s decision caught many by surprise but some in his party suspected he may have privately warned Mr Ryan of his concerns with the bill.

He defended his position by saying: "I wasn’t convinced that this piece of legislation was the best we could have done in what are, to be fair, unusual circumstances. This was mainly due to its extremely rushed nature. I had read enough and heard enough to make it clear to me that it could have been stronger. 

I knew my vote was not going to defeat the bill but I felt I also had to give a signal to how it was done was not good enough.

As a result of her decision, Ms Hourgian will loose her annual stipend of €6,000 which is associated with her position which is paid on top of her €96,189 TD salary.

Ms Hourigan resigned the whip ahead of her decision to vote against legislation on rent freezes and eviction bans for those impacted by Covid-19.

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