The Government's majority in the Dáil was lost in dramatic scenes on Wednesday when former Education Minister Joe McHugh voted against its mica legislation.
Mr McHugh, whose Donegal constituency has been particularly hit by mica, said that he was making the decision with a "heavy heart" but said that a proposal that would mean those rebuilding their homes at a smaller size than previously would not receive 100% of the cost should be removed from the legislation underpinning the scheme.
He voted against the second stage of the bill before voting with Sinn Féin on a number of amendments.
Mr McHugh said in a statement that the Remediation of Dwellings Damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill needed to be improved. He also hit out at the Government's allocation of just two hours to debate the legislation on Wednesday evening.
"I voted against the ‘Remediation of Dwellings Damaged by the Use of Defective Concrete Blocks Bill 2022'.
"While I acknowledge the work that has gone into the proposed compensation package, the bill still needs improvement in key areas and I have engaged extensively with the Government on these.
"I believe that insufficient time has gone into debating the bill, which could have allowed these issues to be addressed to improve this legislation to meet the needs of the people affected."
Speaking in the Dáil debate on the legislation, Mr McHugh — who has previously announced that he will not run in the next general election — said that the legislation needed "a lot of work" and focused on the downsizing rule.
"It's unfair that someone who wants to downsize is penalised. They can't salvage their kitchen, they can't salvage their staircases. I felt very strongly on that point and will continue to raise that point.
The decision of Mr McHugh leaves the Government with 79 TDs out of 159. This means that it could, in theory, lose any confidence or finance votes.
However, other TDs who have lost their party’s whips — the Green Party’s Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello, and Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry — have voted with the Government since losing the whip while a number of independents vote with the Government on a case-by-case basis.
However, while a senior Government source said that they were confident the Government's numerical situation is "more solid than it perhaps looks", they accepted that there was a "strange atmosphere" around Mr McHugh's departure.
Speaking to theafter the vote, Mr McHugh said he felt he had to come down on "the right side of right".
Mr McHugh said he had spoken to Tánaiste Leo Varadkar ahead of the vote.
"We had a chat and I explained to him the main issues that I had and the issues I needed changed, but there was no guarantee that they could be changed."
Mr McHugh, said it was with a "heavy heart" that he had made the decision, stressing that he had been in Fine Gael since 1999, but in this case he couldn't go against the homeowners.
"I felt I had to be on the right side of right."
Mica campaigners, who confirmed that they will form a political party, protested at the gates of Leinster House on Wednesday as amendments, many tabled by affected homeowners, were debated.
Campaigners say that the Government’s €2.7bn scheme does not offer 100% redress for homeowners.
Housing Minister Darragh O'Brien said that the bill, which passed the Dáil on Wednesday evening was complex, but paid tribute to homeowners.
"We are committed to making the scheme work for them, which is why we need to ground this scheme in legislation and have it passed by the summer recess.
"Over the summer recess, we can work through the regulations and get the scheme up and running to be able to help people to get their homes and lives back together."