EXPLAINER: What the hell is going on with the no confidence vote? 2 months ago

EXPLAINER: What the hell is going on with the no confidence vote?

What does it mean, and what happens if it passes?

With governments falling across the world and leaders being made to resign, it's easy to imagine that something similar is set to happen in Ireland with this week's imminent no confidence vote.


With the coalition Government majority suddenly gone, Sinn Féin has swooped in to take advantage of the opportunity to try and force a changing of the guard.

But how did we get here? And what are the chances that we could be seeing the end of the Irish Government as we know it?

Here's everything you need to know about Tuesday's no confidence vote...

How did we get here?


It began as all good political dilemmas do – with a resignation.

Last Wednesday, Joe McHugh retired as Fine Gael party whip over the ongoing mica crisis in his home county of Donegal, leaving the government one vote short of a majority.

Shortly after McHugh was out the door, Sinn Féin announced plans to table a motion of no-confidence in the Government.

"The case for, and the need for, a change in government is unanswerable," Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said on RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Friday.


"Two years on, we believe this Government has run out of road, they’re out of time and we think it is important now to hold them to account."

What does a no confidence vote even mean?

If a vote of no confidence passes, it means that both the Government and the Taoiseach are forced to resign.

This would then trigger either a Dáil vote to elect a replacement Taoiseach, or dissolve the entire government and force a General Election.


As the largest opposition party, Sinn Féin would be looking to take over from the current Government, either by voting in Mary Lou McDonald as replacement Taoiseach or by receiving a majority in a general election.

A Government has failed a vote of no-confidence just twice, once in 1982, and another in 1992, so it isn't completely unprecedented.

When did the last one happen?

There hasn't been a no confidence vote in the Government for over five years, since Enda Kenny survived an attempted removal in 2017.

Sinn Féin (they do love a good no confidence vote, so they do) put forward the motion following the handling of the Garda whistleblower scandal, which saw Maurice McCabe subjected to a smear campaign by senior members of An Garda Síochána.


The Government succeeded in the vote of confidence with a vote of 57-52, with 44 abstentions.

Who is voting which way?

Sinn Féin are obviously voting against having confidence in the Government, seeing as they were the ones to put it forward in the first place.

Labour have also shared their intention to share a vote of no confidence, and other opposition parties are certain to follow.

Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan has said that she is unsure of which way she would vote, following her removal from the Green Party whip following a vote on the National Maternity Hospital.

Despite resigning from the Fine Gael whip, Joe McHugh has said he would be voting to support the Government, saying on Morning Ireland that he would not be "hastening Sinn Féin’s pursuit of power".

Independent TD Michael Lowry has said that he would support the Government, due to "Budgetary matters".

Independent TD Marc McSharry also said he would also be supporting the Government, so provided that he, Lowry, or McHugh don't have a Hollywood-style change of heart as they push their "Tá" or "Níl" button, the Government should be safe.

Does the Government think it could fail?

They're certainly not ruling it out.

Micheál Martin responded to the proposed vote last week, saying he welcomes the "opportunity" for his Government to highlight its achievements to date.

His tone was a bit more concerned on Monday, however, saying that the public didn't "want an election".

This scenario thus wouldn't happen until 2025... unless the vote of no-confidence proves successful.

So... could it happen?

More than likely, no.

While the Government doesn't have an official majority, the assistance of some Independent TDs that vote in line with the Government should keep them afloat.

If these Independent TDs didn't vote with the Government, then every vote would have ended with only one vote in favour of FF/FG/Green Party motions, which hasn't been the case.

Also, while Joe McHugh has resigned from the party, he won't be seeking re-election, so it wouldn't benefit him to vote against the Government and cut his tenure short.

There have been 30 votes of no-confidence in the history of the Dáil so far, and with a 6.67% success rate, it's highly unlikely it will pass again tomorrow.

But stranger things have happened.

What time will the vote take place?

The vote is set to take place tomorrow (Tuesday 12 July).

According to the Oireachtas website, the vote will commence from 5.40pm.