Elaine Loughlin: Expulsion of two Greens leaves Government with threadbare majority

A single-seat majority for the Government may not be quite as bad as it appears, but could it survive a real and deep crisis?
Elaine Loughlin: Expulsion of two Greens leaves Government with threadbare majority

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan and party leader Eamon Ryan. Picture: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The expulsion of two Green Party TDs leaves the Government with what could turn into a difficult arithmetic problem to resolve.

Having already lost Fine Gael's Eoghan Murphy and Fianna Fáil's Marc MacSharry, the expulsion of Neasa Hourigan and Patrick Costello has left the Coalition with a threadbare majority of one.

It comes at a time when the Government is facing cost-of-living pressures, public sector wage demands, and, of course, a budget to get through.

Even before the latest departures, the Government whips were recently left scrambling ahead of a Sinn Féin motion which called on Eamon Ryan to scrap plans to ban the commercial sale of turf. 

In the end, a number of vocal Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil rebels were persuaded to remain on board.

Those in power stress also that with Michael Lowry, Noel Grealish, and several other trusty Independents to rely on for votes, things aren't quite as bad as they seem.

And with Ms Hourigan and Mr Costello still likely to side with the Government, the single-seat majority is more technical than actual.

But if the Government were to be plunged into a real and deep crisis, would it still be able to retain the usually solid support from a motley crew of Independents?

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan says Government works 'in a partnership way'. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan says Government works 'in a partnership way'. Picture: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan was remaining upbeat after sanctioning the two members on a national maternity hospital, but even he had to admit that the numbers will be "tight".

"The war in Ukraine, the increase in the price of fossil fuels and food prices that is coming from that, is creating very uncertain economic situations," he said.

"The European Central Bank is starting to change monetary policy to increase interest rates and probably tighten the money supply. 

"So in those circumstances, what's really important is that Government works in my mind a partnership way with social partners, with unions, with employers, and other parties. And that's what we're doing. And I think that will give real strength to the budgetary process and to the final decisions we need to make."

I think it's a well-functioning Government. There is trust between the three parties."

It seems this Government operates in threes, with three parties, three leaders, and three key pieces of work to get through.

"There are three key projects this Government has to deliver on: addressing the housing crisis, bringing health reform, and showing a real leap in climate change," said Mr Ryan. 

"And that's the work we're we're focused on. That's what we aim to do. All three parties are committed."

Election speculation

In the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also moved to dismiss any notion that the Coalition is now on the rocks.

"You can rest assured that the Government still has a majority in the Dáil, and still has a substantial majority in the Seanad," he said.

People need not fear an election anytime soon."

But as Mr Ryan accepted yesterday, October's budget will be shaped in a very uncertain economic time. Having to worry about the numbers only adds extra strain to what could be a tricky period.

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