Fine Gael attacks Greens over abstentions

Wednesday 15 July 2009 22.26
Dan Boyle - Abstained from final vote
Dan Boyle - Abstained from final vote

The Fine Gael leader in the Seanad has called on the Green Party to get out of Government if it cannot back its own measures.

The comments come after the two Green Party senators - Dan Boyle and Deirdre De Burca - abstained in a vote on the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill last night.

They said they protested because their suggestions, which they say would have improved the bill, were ignored.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern rejected a Green Party request to have a full annual review of the controversial Bill, which allows gang crime suspects to be tried before the Special Criminal Court.

Dan Boyle this morning said the perception had grown that people could take his party for granted.

Green Party Minister Eamon Ryan said it was unfortunate that useful suggestions had not been taken up and he backed the protest abstention by the two senators.

But Fine Gael's Leader in the Seanad, Frances Fitzgerald, said it had been a pathetic display and if the party could not back its own measures it should pull out of Government.

There is considerable history between the Greens and Dermot Ahern.

There have been rows over funding for the Equality Agency, proposals for substantial fines for blasphemy, the defamation bill and civil partnership.

A party source said the Greens had been disappointed with Mr Ahern's attitude.

While the row exposed the Greens to Opposition criticism, for their own members it shows the parliamentary party flexing its muscles ahead of a special conference at the weekend.

That meeting will discuss Lisbon and plans to renegotiate the Programme for Government.

Elsewhere, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has removed Tommy Broughan from his position as the party's assistant whip.

The move follows Mr Broughan's failure to vote with his party colleagues in the vote on the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill last Friday.

Criminal Justice Bill passed

The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill passed all stages in the Seanad last night on a vote of 37 to 5 after eight hours of debate.

Despite objections from Fine Gael at the handling of the Bill from the outset, it supported its passage, while the Labour Party, Sinn Féin and some Independents opposed.

Speaking after the final vote was taken, Minister Ahern said it was important the Bill was passed before the Oireachtas took its holidays.

He insisted it did not represent a seismic shift in the criminal justice system and claimed that while it may be needed now, the Oireachtas might decide it is no longer necessary in two or three years.

Minister Ahern said he hoped the Bill will be signed into law in the not too distant future.