Government proposed legislation to allow for the resumption of indoor dining for fully vaccinated/recovered people was passed by the Dáil late on Wednesday night.
After days of vehement criticism of the proposals by opposition parties, which many said are “discriminatory”, the Health Amendment No 2 Bill was passed by 74 votes to 68 votes.
The number of absent Government TDs raised concerns that a ‘mini mutiny’ was at play, according to the Irish Examiner, however, most said they had pairing arrangements in place or had notified their party of their absence prior to the vote.
Eight Fine Gael TDs missed the first vote, while five Government TDs remained unaccounted for by the time the Bill passes late on Wednesday night.
Helen McEntee, who is on maternity leave, and Ciaran Cannon had pairing arrangements, Alan Farrell is reported to have missed the initial vote “in error”, and Joe Carey appeared for later votes on the Bill. Michael Ring, John Paul Phelan, Alan Dillon and Peter Burke also missed the vote.
Three Fianna Fáil TDs were also absent, although Willie O’Dea said he was unwell, John McGuinness said he had a pairing arrangement in place, and Marc MacSharry said he informed the party whip that he would be absent on Tuesday.
The Government were forced to defend the legislation amid questions over its constitutionality and enforceability.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly defended the proposals, saying the EU already differentiates between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in terms of international travel, while Tánaiste Leo Varadkar added that countries such as Denmark and Germany have taken similar approaches.
Mr Varakdar described the plans as “imperfect” but the “safe path” to allow indoor dining to resume.
Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said the proposed legislation is “unfair, impractical, unworkable” and “discriminatory”, while People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy urged the Government to delay reopening the sector six-eight weeks in order to allow more time for people to be vaccinated.
Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín added that he would be writing a letter to President Michael D Higgins, asking him to refer the Bill to the Supreme Court.
In the vote, Independent TD Michael Lowry supported the Government while all other parties and Independents voted against the Bill.