Government Slams End Of Pairing Agreement

The Government has heavily criticised a decision by Fine Gael to end a long standing pairing agreement in the Dáil.

Fine Gael announced its decision to end the pairing agreement with the Government, just as Minister for Education and Skills Mary Coughlan was due to visit to the US for a mission involving Enterprise Ireland this week.

Pairing allows ministers to be absent for Dáil votes by agreeing an abstention with a member of the opposition, thereby canceling out each other's votes.

This morning the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe described the decision to end the agreement as short-sighted and unpatriotic.

Minster O’Keeffe said the Tánaiste’s jobs and education mission was an enormous opportunity to develop international education links and generate jobs and revenues for Ireland.

"Work has been under way on preparation for the Tánaiste’s trip for many months and many key stakeholder meetings had been arranged with potential new clients.

"Fine Gael has embarrassed the country and it is very disappointing that the main Opposition party would place political self-interest above the national interest," said Minister O'Keeffe.

The Fine Gael move will put increased pressure on the Government and comes just as Independent TD Noel Grealish announced he would withdraw his support for the Government over planned health cuts, further hurting their slim majority.

Fine Gael also announced that it intends to move the writs for the three outstanding bye-elections in Dublin South, Donegal South West and Waterford when the Dáil resumes on Wednesday.

Fine Gael Education Spokesman Fergus O'Dowd defended the pairing decision, saying Minister Coughlan had to be 'personally accountable' to the Dáil on issues such as spending at State training agency FÁS.

Mr O'Dowd said the party would provide cover for Ministers going on European Union business, but other votes would not be covered.


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