Confidence always shaken when Government is stirred

World of Politics with Harry McGee

No confidence motions are part and parcel of parliamentary politics. There are at least a handful each year and they can be directly linked either to an ongoing systemic problem with a Minister (usually housing or health) or a major crisis affecting a Minister (such as the fallout from the riots in Dublin last week).

Or indeed, the Government itself as a whole can be targeted.

This Coalition has faced two no confidence motions, one from Sinn Féin in 2022 and another from Labour earlier this year.

Do they make much difference? It depends on the motion and depends on the fragility of the government of the day. At their mildest, they can cause some further embarrassment to an embattled minister.

If the Government is hanging on by a threat, it can potentially be toppled.

Take a vote of confidence from over 30 years ago, that of November 5 1992. Albert Reynolds had replaced Charles Haughey as Taoiseach and had a tense relationship with the union coalition partner, the Progressive Democrats, and its leader Desmond O’Malley.

It came to a head when both leaders gave evidence to the Beef Tribunal, which examined export credit insurance given by a Fianna Fáil government to beef exporters, who were sending their produce into Iraq before sanctions were imposed on it for invading Kuwait.

The credit was worth £500 million, and the main beneficiary was Larry Goodman’s Anglo Irish Beef Processors. It left the State open to massive liabilities.

At the Tribunal O’Malley did not spare his criticism of Reynolds who was the Minister for Industry and Commerce when the export credit scheme was approved. He described him as being “unwise, reckless and foolish”.

Reynolds retorted, when he gave evidence, that O’Malley was being “dishonest” in his evidence.

It led to a serious rift between the two politicians that led to the coalition between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats falling apart.

As Reynold’s press secretary Seán Duignan wrote in his extraordinary book on Reynolds in Government ‘One Spin on the Merry-Go-Round’:

“Like a footballer badly fouled in the first round of a cup-tie, Reynolds nursed his wrath until the second leg, and then put the boot in. Unfortunately, as often happens in such circumstances, it instantly earned him the red card.

Pictured: Minister Helen McEntee…latest in a long line to face confidence vote.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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