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12th Mar 2024

Fine Gael senators didn’t vote in referendum because they flew to England to watch Ireland rugby match

Simon Kelly

Fine Gael senators rugby match

The campaigns were overwhelmingly rejected last week.

Two Fine Gael senators reportedly didn’t vote in last Friday’s referendums as they were flying to attend the England-Ireland rugby match in London.

Senators John McGahon and Garret Ahearn were travelling to the airport for an early morning flight and were unable to cast their votes on the government’s proposals, which were overwhelmingly rejected by the public.

While local polling stations opened at 7am on Friday morning, the Irish Independent report that the trip had been pre-arranged, leaving no time to vote.

Mr McGahon confirmed his attendance at the match to the Independent, saying that his flight boarded at 8am, meaning that voting in his local Dundalk polling station was “impossible.”

Senator Ahearn also confirmed he did not vote, saying: “Unfortunately I was out of the country and could not cast my vote in Tipperary.”

Fine Gael senators didn’t vote in referendum because they flew to England to watch Ireland rugby match

The final turnout for the vote nationwide on Friday was a very low 44.36%, with the Family amendment rejected by 67.7% of voters, and the Care amendment was rejected by 73.9%.

Speaking from Dublin Castle on Saturday after the vote, Mr Ahearn’s and Mr McGahon’s party leader Leo Varadkar said that he accepted the public’s decision, admitting that the government “failed” to convince the majority to vote Yes.

“I think it’s clear at this stage that the family amendment and the care referendums have been defeated,” said Varadkar. “Defeated comprehensively on respectable turn out.

“The Government accepts the results and will respect it. As head of Government, on behalf of the Government, we accept responsibility for the results.

“It was our responsibility to convince the majority of people to vote yes and we clearly failed to do so.”

Fine Gael Senators John McGahon and Garret Ahearn

All parties in government campaigned for a Yes/Yes vote, however, on Monday, Fianna Fail TD Willie O’Dea broke ranks and said that he had voted No/No.

Mr O’Dea also stated that the government should stop “playing to the woke gallery” and scrap the proposed Hate Speech bill, instead focusing on issues like housing, health and law and order.

Carlow-Kilkenny Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness also voted No/No, as did Lisa Chambers, who attempted to distance herself from the campaign.

Ms Chambers said that she “changed her mind” on the Family referendum shortly before voting and was “never supportive of the Care amendment”, despite canvassing for the Yes/Yes vote in Dublin on February 22.

The chair of the Oireachtas media committee, Niamh Smyth, a Fianna Fáil TD also voted No in the Care referendum.

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