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12.31 2 Aug 2020


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A Green Party Minister says the party has been assured that two TDs who did not vote with the government on housing legislation will not do it again.

Neasa Hourigan resigned as Chief Whip for voting against the Residential Tenancies Bill this week.

She has also had her Dáil speaking rights suspended for two months, a sanction also imposed on Junior Minister Joe O'Brien who abstained on the vote.

The Dáil will not actually sit for six of the eight weeks the punishment lasts for.

Minister for Children and Green Party TD Roderic O'Gorman said their actions will not be repeated.

Speaking on Newstalk's On The Record with Gavan Reilly programme, Minister O'Gorman said the party members have to vote in support of the government which means "supporting the legislation provided".

He said: "I know there has been a lot to deal with this week and I know that's part of the reason we've had this breakdown in communication in the party and we have to do a lot more to address that.

"Going forward I think it's absolutely essential that the entire Green Party, and indeed all government parties, are supportive of the programme for government."

On Deputy Hourigan and Deputy O'Brien's actions, he said: "Both of them assured the parliamentary party that this wouldn't happen again in that meeting that took place following the vote and I take their assurances on face value.

"I think we were very clear and Eamon was very clear that this cannot happen again.

"It would undermine the confidence in our ability to deliver on the programme for government which we were mandated to do by our party membership."

On a difficult few weeks for the new government, Minister O'Gorman said: "It hasn't been an ideal start and the government has made some mistakes but I think where we've made mistakes we've attempted to rectify them.

"In the context of the huge amount of very significant legislation coming before the cabinet, I think [the Green Party] recognised internally that we could have done a better job as regards our engagement with our backbenchers and providing space for them to input to us their concerns.

"We'll be working on that over the August break to ensure that as a parliamentary party, we're better functioning and are will to fully engage with legislation and with our TDs or backbenchers."

Childcare and schools

Minister O'Gorman said he said he is confident that the vast majority of childcare providers will reopen this month

If the guidelines are followed, particularly the use of 'pods' in childcare settings, he believes the spread of COVID-19 can be contained

He said: "As creches continue to reopen and as schools reopen the public health advice will have to continue to evolve to deal with situations and give providers the very best guidelines in terms of how to react."

He said that children's mental health and education had been impacted by school closures and that it was "absolutely essential" that they return.

He added: "I think we have to do everything in our power over the next three or four weeks to make sure that we continue to suppress numbers but for the government, the reopening of schools is an absolute priority and I think everything else has to take second place to that."

Main image: File photo of Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman. Picture by: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews

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