Green Party sources: Eamon Ryan was trying to be nice to Joe O'Brien

Green Party sources: Eamon Ryan was trying to be nice to Joe O'Brien
Dublin Fingal Green Party TD Joe O'Brien abstained on a government vote last night. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Green TDs who were present at the parliamentary party meeting to sanction Neasa Hourigan and Joe O'Brien say they "had no idea what to expect".

Green Party junior minister, Joe O’Brien, abstained on the final vote of the Residential Tenancies Bill which was being debated in the Dáil on Thursday night after his party colleague, Neasa Hourigan, voted against it.

A source has confirmed that the TDs did not plan on breaking rank together, and that their actions were coincidental.

Both representatives have had their speaking rights removed for two months as a sanction for their actions on the vote following a Green parliamentary party meeting. 

Party leader Eamon Ryan's decision has raised some eyebrows within the government who consider the sanction a light punishment, as such moves are normally met with harsher penalties.

"Things are already tense within the party, so we didn't know what to expect," a source said.

"Shocked is too strong a word, Eamon has never been in this situation before and going into recess makes it more awkward for him. The fact that Joe is a Minister of State is really tricky. 

"Eamon pretends like he likes to deal with things in consensus, but really he's made his mind up and if the meeting goes a way he doesn't like, it takes the huge force of the entire room against him to change his mind if he's made his mind up."

It is what it is, Eamon said he's hoping there won't be another time and was trying to be nice and not overly harsh. 

"It was clear he didn't want to come down too hard and create a backlash, you could see he was avoiding that, there were others in the party who wanted harsher punishments. 

Green Party source: "Eamon pretends like he deals with things in consensus" Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Green Party source: "Eamon pretends like he deals with things in consensus" Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

"We were mostly curious about how the other parties are taking it, we know there are people who would like to see Joe hung out to dry. 

"There's a certain amount of sympathy for Joe within the party on housing, he worked in the sector, he was a whistleblower, it can't have been easy."

Ms Hourigan, who was the Green Party whip until yesterday, confirmed that she took the decision to abdicate her position before the vote, informing her party’s executive council in writing.

The Dublin Central TD says she wants to remain part of the government and Green Party: "I didn't enter into government with the party intending to vote against the Government, that's not my intention into the future and that wasn't my intention after the vote happened."

"So I have no intention of leaving. I want to continue to be a Green parliamentarian. 

"I've been very involved in developing policy with the Green Party for years and I'm chair of the policy council and it's something that is very important to me, and I'm hoping that there's still a place for me in the Green Party."

Mr O'Brien said after the vote: "I wasn’t convinced that this piece of legislation was the best we could have done in what are, to be fair, unusual circumstances. 

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

More in this section

Lunchtime News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up